Elon Musk reveals Mars 'acid test' for planet to be entirely self sufficient

SpaceX boss says civilisation on Earth is ‘looking a little rickety right now’

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 20 October 2020 12:17 BST
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Nasa’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge has seen various structures proposed that could be built from the materials found on Mars
Nasa’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge has seen various structures proposed that could be built from the materials found on Mars

Elon Musk has revealed plans to create a city on Mars that is entirely self-sufficient and not dependent on links to Earth for its survival.

Speaking at the Mars Society’s annual conference, the founder and CEO of SpaceX said projects to develop a Martian settlement were already underway but need to be complete before a cataclysmic event takes place on Earth. He added: “Civilisation’s not looking super strong, it’s looking a little rickety right now."

Establishing self sufficiency would therefore be the ultimate benchmark of success for any colonisation of Mars. 

“It’s helpful to have as the objective the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars… Not simply a few people or a base, but a self-sustaining city,” he said.

“The acid test really is, if the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?

“If it does, then we’re not in a secure place.”

He said such an eventuality could occur from a number of potential scenarios, giving examples of a comet hitting the Earth, a supervolcano erupting or even “nuclear Armageddon” on Earth. 

“This really might come down to: Are we going to create a self-sustaining city on Mars before or after World War 3? And I think the probability of it being created after World War 3 – hopefully there’s never a World War 3 – but the probability of after is low, so we should try and make the city self-sustaining before any possible World War 3.”

A render of SpaceX’s Mars-bound Starship spacecraft

Musk founded SpaceX with the ultimate mission to make humanity a multi-planetary species, and has frequently spoken of his desire to travel there during his lifetime.

The space craft being developed for this purpose is Starship, which has already performed multiple flight and landing tests at the firm’s Texas base.

When asked when Starship’s first trip to Mars might be, Musk said a non-crewed mission could take place as early as 2024.

Earlier this year, Musk made the Starship spacecraft SpaceX’s “top priority”, after voicing concerns that current progress of space technology was insufficient to fulfil his goal of being among the first visitors to Mars. 

During the Mars Society event, Musk also said it was unlikely that the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars would happen in his lifetime.

“This is really about minimising existential risk for civilisation as a whole, and then having an exciting future that you can look forward to,” he said.

“A future where we are a space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species is far more exciting than one where we are not.”

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