Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. Is it profitable?

Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. Is it profitable?

Musk, the company’s CEO and chief engineer, says that his interplanetary ambition is closer to a science fiction protagonist with a moral vocation than an entrepreneur with a disruptive business plan.

The last space program close to Musk’s interplanetary travel ambitions was NASA’s Apollo program, a mid-20th century effort that landed six spacecrafts and twelve astronauts on the moon. Apollo cost It is well over $280 billion in today’s dollars, and over the years, NASA made up more than 4% of the total national budget. In recent years, less than half of the federal budget, the Space Agency, is planning a way to return humans to the moon and eventually to Mars.

However, the agency did not reveal how much the latter would cost.

Musk’s personal fortune has grown to about $100 billion, at least on paper. Series of stocks and stock awards From his electric car company Tesla. Musk has also repeatedly said he hopes to benefit from SpaceX’s other businesses, including ongoing satellite internet ventures. Beta testing, Will help in the development of his Mars rocket. According to the data company, SpaceX has also raised nearly $6 billion from banks and venture capitalists, making it one of the world’s most valuable private companies. Pitch book. Perhaps at least some investors will expect cash withdrawals someday.

And it asks the question: can you make money on Mars?

Interplanetary benefits

SpaceX will still take years to develop all the technology needed to settle on Mars. The company is in the early stages of developing Starship, a massive rocket and spacecraft system that hopes Musk will transport people’s cargo and transports across the air gap of at least 30 million miles between Earth and Mars. Musk estimates that Starship development will cost up to $10 billion, and Musk said on August 31 that Space X will launch “hundreds of” satellites before giving Starship human lives.

Settlers need to be sealed if travel to Mars is possible. habitat Toxic air and lethal radiation It rains on the surface.

“It’s not for people with weak hearts,” Musk said. “You are likely to die and it will be hard… well you will be pretty glorious.”

But for at least the first 100 years of human existence on Mars, the economic situation will be ambiguous, said Michael Meyer, chief scientist at NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. patience Rover further studies planets with robots.
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Musk has plans to make Mars an attractive destination for long-term life. Terraforming, a hypothetical scenario where humans pump gas into the atmosphere to make Mars more like Earth. It will be an attempt to use the same greenhouse gases that cause the climate crisis on our home planet to make Mars’ atmosphere thicker, warmer and kinder to life. Musk promoted the idea that the process could be started in the following ways: Nuclear bomb dropping On Earth.

The idea of ​​terraforming came from scientists kicking the idea, but not from someone who thought it was something humans could or should do, Meyer said.

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“It was an intellectual movement,” Meyer said. However, there is very little oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere. And the amount of water is extremely small. This means that crops will be extremely difficult to grow and the water cycle across Mars will be much less. It’s not even clear that Mars has enough resources to make terraforming possible.

Musk says SpaceX's "from a photo posted on Instagram. Occupy Mars & quot; T-shirt.

“I think’total recall’ has the right idea,” he joked. “You have to use alien technology.”

Musk also admitted that terraforming would be extremely resource intensive. However, since the concept is rooted in SpaceX’s knowledge, the company sells t-shirts called “Nuke Mars” and “Occupy Mars”.

Musk is often worn.

Value and value

Meyer said there are no known resources on Mars that are known to be worth mining mines and selling them back to businesses on Earth. “Part of the reason [scientists are] The interest in Mars is that it is made of almost the same material as Earth,” he told CNN Business.

Musk previously suggested agreeing, pointing out that Mars’ resources would be of value only to settlers hoping to build industries on Earth. He pointed out 8 years ago The only “economic exchange” between Mars and Earth’s inhabitants will be “intellectual property.”
Mars, the fourth planet in the sun, has a day roughly as long as Earth's day. But this planet is a smaller planet, has an average temperature of -81 degrees Fahrenheit, and the atmosphere is much thinner and consists mostly of carbon dioxide.

Aside from their money-making ambitions, the idea that Mars could one day become a metropolis home and potentially a tourist destination is recognized by mainstream scientists like Meyer, NASA’s chief Mars expert.

Meyer said he attended a presentation on Mars business and tourism 20 years ago. “I went pretty skeptical about this. And then I said,’Well, [there are] It’s a pretty reasonable idea,” he said. He added that he now accepts the idea that businessmen can make space travel more accessible.

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Meyer in his mind if Mars travel will one day be a profitable venture, when.

Musk did not expand the idea of ​​making money on Mars, but his thoughts on exporting intellectual property were influential in the space community, but in a book written by polarizing figure Robert Zubrin. for a long time musk ally.

Zubrin, who leads Mars society, wrote in his frequently cited book “The Case of Mars” in 1996, “The idea may have another export potential to Martian colonists.”

To look at the potential future of mankind, Zubrin looks to the past.

“Just as the labor shortage prevalent in colonies and 19th-century America led to the invention flood of Yankee Ingenuity, so severe labor shortages tend to drive Mars ingenuity.”

In a recent interview with CNN Business, Zubrin supported these ideas, arguing that American colonization would work. Zubrin once again recalls colonization in North America as an example of how Martian colonists could liquidate their Earth’s possessions to finance their travels or finance their travels as “contracted slaves”.

“Okay, if you say you want to go to Mars, you’ll want to offer something,” Zubrin said. “Looking at Colonial America, the middle class can liquidate their farms and travel to the US. But the proceeds will give them a one-way ticket. But if you do the work, you’ll have seven years of labor.”

Zubrin, who has worked with conservative think tanks but said he does not belong politically, also admitted that colonization could parallel exploitation. “Someone said,’But is there no exploitation?’ That’s what people always do to each other.”

(Musk didn’t explain his thoughts on colonialism, party.)

To be clear, the story of American colonialism also included the chattle slavery and the cruelty and extinction of many indigenous peoples.

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“There are no native Martians,” Zubrin said.

But Damien Williams, a teacher and doctoral student at Virginia Tech who studies the intersections of advanced technology, ethics, and society, warns that the story of us talking about America and exploring the universe can be out of context.

 A prototype of SpaceX's spacecraft can be seen on September 28, 2019 at the company's Texas launch facility in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas.
For example, it is still unclear who Musk envisions as the first Martian settlers. NASA astronaut? A very wealthy thrill seeker? Employees at SpaceX?
“Competitive positions on expansion and exploration aren’t necessarily bad.” Williams working with advocacy group Just Space Alliance, said. But for private companies that use resources that say they belong to nobody according to international treaties, “Who came in, how? Who was excluded and why? These things are important.”

Musk’s use of the word “colonization” refers to a long history in which Americans and other Western countries enrich themselves by exploiting and enslaving others. And it’s not just microbial lifeforms that can exist on Mars that should be of interest when colonizing other planets. Without clearly defined goals and consensus, SpaceX’s colony could create a “area of ​​contention,” Williams said.

“The value we bring to space exploration must be front and center,” he added.

SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

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