Others, though, are a lot more cynical. Getting to Mars is hard – really hard. There’s a reason humans have never gone.
Aside from the money issue, which is a big one (we’ll come to that), the fact remains that we weren’t shown much more than pretty pictures and videos. This is a pipe dream at the moment; Musk was honest about that.
But the idea of launching this in 10 years seems a bit ridiculous. The rocket hasn’t been built. Nothing has been tested. There are no plans to support the colony on Mars. This thing is bigger than any rocket in history.
Even if everything were to tick along smoothly, the whole thing borders on unfathomable at the moment. Prove us wrong, Elon.
How much will it cost?
Current models suggest a cost of $10 billion per person to Mars. Musk wants to lower this to $200,000. It’s not clear how, nor what the total cost of the project would be. A rough estimate would suggest in the hundreds of billions.
How will people survive on Mars?
That, Musk did not address. And there are a ridiculous amount of unknowns about surviving on Mars.
Journeying to the Red Planet is often compared to discovering the Americas. The difference, though, is that we could live off the resources in the Americas. You can’t live on Mars without massive infrastructure. You can’t even breathe the air without dying.
What will the people do on Mars? We don’t know. How will they live off the land? Don’t know. What equipment would they have and use? Don’t know. Habitats? Ditto.
Can we use Mars’ resources?
Maybe. We know there’s a lot of water-ice there, and possibly water under the surface. Musk says the upcoming unmanned Red Dragon missions, beginning in 2018, will find out the best ways to access Martian water.
There’s also a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which could be useful.
Will Musk do it alone?
No. He wants to bring on board international partners, either governments like China and the US or private companies.
Musk said his idea is not just limited to Mars. SpaceX
What’s the ultimate goal?
To have a self-sustaining colony of a million people on Mars. Musk also fancifully suggested he wanted to terraform Mars, and make its atmosphere Earth-like. God knows how he’s planning to do that, although there are some ideas floating around.
What implications does this have for life on Mars?
Musk seemed pretty unconcerned about planetary protection rules. He said there were no signs of life on the Martian surface, so the contamination issue essentially didn't matter. NASA, however, might disagree.