Today, Elon Musk unveiled his plans to colonize Mars using tech from his SpaceX company. See there, in the video above that looks like a clip from an especially dour and pretentious piece of space Oscar bait? That's the solar-powered spaceship that will supposedly carry humans to the Red Planet, where they would spend the next 40 to 100 years building a colony.
If we say the minimum threshold for a self-sustaining city on Mars, or civilization, would be a million people, and you can only go every two years, if you have 100 people per ship, that's 10,000 trips. So I think at least 100 people per trip is the right order of magnitude, and I think we actually may end up expanding the crew section and ultimately taking more like 200 or more people per flight in order to reduce the cost per person.
But 10,000 flights is a lot of flights. So you'd really want ultimately I think on the order of 1,000 ships. It would take a while to build up to a thousand ships, and so I think if you say when we reach that million-person threshold, from the point at which the first ship goes to Mars, it's probably somewhere between 20 to 50 total Mars rendezvous. So it's probably somewhere between maybe 40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization on Mars.
Currently, Musk says, it would cost about $10 billion per person for a Mars trip, but he hopes to reduce that figure to a very of-the-people $200,000, in part by creating reusable rockets that return to earth after launch.
Charles continues: "Everybody needs to know there's nothing on Mars. Except junk we've left there. What we'll find is our own junk."
If this all sounds exciting enough that you want to jostle for a spot on the proposed mission, there is one criteria Musk has already laid out for you: "Are you prepared to die? If that's okay, then you're a candidate for going."
The Verge has comprehensive coverage of the announcement, which you should read if you need to know every detail, including the fact that Musk made a South Park joke.