Elon Musk doesn’t just want to send a person to Mars — he wants to send 80,000. According toSpace.com, the billionaire founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX spilled details about his hopes for a future Mars colony during a talk at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on Nov. 16.
Earlier this year, SpaceX became the first private U.S. company to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Musk has never been shy about his ambitions to take human colonists to another planet, mentioning in the past that he wants to provide flights to Mars for about $500,000 a person. But now he’s talking about building a small-city-sized settlement on the Red Planet, starting with a 10-person crew in the coming decades to begin establishing and building infrastructure.
That first flight would be expensive and risky but “once there are regular Mars flights, you can get the cost down to half a million dollars for someone to move to Mars,” Musk told Space.com. ”Then I think there are enough people who would buy that to have it be a reasonable business case.” Musk added that he sees the future 80,000-person colony as a public-private enterprise costing roughly $36 billion.
Science-fiction inspired plans are one thing. Musk still has many challenges ahead of him before such a scheme could become reality, including figuring out exactly how to deal with radiation on the way to Mars, how to land humans on the planet’s surface, and how to keep them alive once there.