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Elon Musk, speaking to CNBC about how the future of humankind is rather closely tied to our ability to get off this planet, is “hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years” — with SpaceX rockets and spacecraft, of course. This lines up with some of his previous comments about establishing a Mars colony in the 2020s. Meanwhile, NASA recently announced that it would try to put a human on Mars in 2035 — and only if it can secure the necessary funding and carry out a number of important milestone missions beforehand. Tantalizingly, Musk also spoke about SpaceX going public on the stock market — perhaps to raise the necessary funds to fly (and establish a colony?) on Mars.
Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has long been an advocate of setting up a Mars colony. Way back in early 2012 he said he’d worked out a way of sending an “average person” on a round-trip to Mars for $500, 000. His tune seems to be a little more muted now, but his new estimate of 10-12 years — before 2026 — is still fairly optimistic. To get there, SpaceX would probably use the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle (basically the Falcon 9 but with two huge booster rockets stuck onto it), and a variant of the recently announced manned Dragon spaceship. NASA’s Mars mission would use the Orion spacecraft (which is finally almost ready for testing), and the new Space Launch System (which isn’t expected to be ready for a few years yet).
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