We’re only hours away from NASA InSight’s grand landing on Mars—and the red planet’s biggest admirer on Earth, Elon Musk, doesn’t appear to be too far behind.
In an interview for the Axios on HBO documentary series which aired over Thanksgiving weekend, Musk, 47, said there was a 70 percent chance he will move to Mars, thanks to “a number of breakthroughs” that have made the sci-fi sounding plan more reachable today than when he first went public with the idea eight years ago.
The price tag for the trip, Musk estimates, would be in the range of “a couple hundred thousand dollars.” However, he rejected the idea that moving to Mars is an “escape hatch for rich people” and warned that it would probably be a one-way trip.
“Your probability of dying on Mars is much higher than [dying on] Earth,” Musk said. “It’s gonna be hard. There’s a good chance of death going into a little can through deep space… We think you can come back, but we are not sure.”
And even if you make it to Mars, life on the red planet will be far from the kind of space tourism that some of Musk’s space entrepreneur peers (like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson) have envisioned.
“You might land successfully. And once you land successfully, you will be working nonstop to build the base. There’s not much time for leisure,” he said, adding that even if you survive this first phase of living on Mars, you could still be killed at any time by the planet’s harsh conditions.
Despite the risks, Musk is still determined to do it, for the sake of the “challenge,” he said. “It’s like climbing mountains. Why do people climb mountains? People die on Everest all the time. They are doing it for the challenge.”
Here’s what we know about his timetable. Musk has planned the first cargo mission to Mars in 2022 using SpaceX’s reusable BFR (Big Falcon Rocket), and the first crewed mission is planned for two years after that. At some point between 2022 and 2024, SpaceX might use the interplanetary BFR to launch an ultra-fast city-to-city transportation system. (Imagine traveling from Manhattan to Shanghai in 39 minutes.)