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Elon Musk: I'll Put a Human On Mars By 2026 275

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-to-mars dept.
An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk says that he'll put the first human boots on Mars well before the 2020s are over. "I'm hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it's certainly possible for that to occur," he said. "But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary." He acknowledged that the company's plans were too long-term to attract many hedge fund managers, which makes it hard for SpaceX to go public anytime soon. "We need to get where things a steady and predictable," Musk said. "Maybe we're close to developing the Mars vehicle, or ideally we've flown it a few times, then I think going public would make more sense."
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Elon Musk: I'll Put a Human On Mars By 2026

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  • Bad idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Putting something like this in the hands of the 'shareholders' is a bad idea.

    • Re:Bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by queazocotal (915608) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @05:51AM (#47270245)

      My favourite tweet of all time is from Musk.
      'No near term plans to IPO @SpaceX. Only possible in very long term when Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly.'

      • What I don't get is: who cares about hedge fund managers? Just do an IPO for the general public, small investors all over the world are more than eager to pour their money into SpaceX, they are literally asking him for it! Sure, it's a risky investment, and Elon's primary objective doesn't seem to be profit, but why say no to all that crazy excited volunteer funding? Unless he really has all the money he needs right now and wouldn't have any efficient use for more?

        • Re:Bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by queazocotal (915608) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @06:23AM (#47270361)

          Because unfortunately, an IPO for the general public means that unfortunate things happen.
          You lose signifcant control of your company - possibly totally.
          Musk developed Falcon Heavy - with essentially no market.
          The Raptor engine currently in development has no market.
          The requirement for reusability is reasonable from a long-term perspective.

          You can't - as I understand it - legally IPO to only those sharing your vision. You are going
          to get pension funds and hedge funds and ... purchasing slices of your company to diversify their
          portfolios.
          These may then not want you to go spending money on wild unprofitable in the next 10 years crap, but
          to make next years dividend larger.

          • Re:Bad idea (Score:5, Informative)

            by The Snowman (116231) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:52AM (#47270617) Homepage

            You can't - as I understand it - legally IPO to only those sharing your vision. You are going to get pension funds and hedge funds and ... purchasing slices of your company to diversify their portfolios.

            These may then not want you to go spending money on wild unprofitable in the next 10 years crap, but to make next years dividend larger.

            This is part of the reason why every IPO files a prospectus with the SEC. SpaceX is what I would call "high risk" from an investment perspective. It could multiply my stock investment a thousand-fold, I could lose everything. This is not the sort of stock that most mutual and other funds would invest in. I believe the risk of going public is the stock market can be very fickle at times, especially with high risk, unproven technology: which describes SpaceX.

            Staying private for now while the risk is higher means more stability for SpaceX. Elon Musk can still acquire capital and can still sell shares of the company, just not on a public market. Example: he could sell 25% of his company to a VC in return for a bucket of money, then pay it back in stock or cash after the IPO. But the company will not be subject to some of the market forces that govern publicly-traded corporations, which is a good thing in the short-term.

            • The risk there is that, if he sells too many shares, he will be forced by law to go public. The same thing happened to Facebook.
          • Sheesh, sell off a bunch of low vote, or non-voting shares.

            There was a big whine fest about the Google share split of the C, non voting, but everyone forgets that nobody can buy B class stock (10 votes per share).

            Companies do it all the time, and some investors are okay being silent partners if they think the management is good.

          • Re:Bad idea (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @09:22AM (#47271165)

            Doing anything useful in space requires long-term thinking. Wall Street doesn't do that, so keeping the operation private is not just the best way to go - it's the only way.

          • You hit the nail on the head. An IPO is a one-time fundraiser that requires permanently surrendering control of your company to a bunch of greedy, short-sighted psychopaths who are only concerned with doing whatever it takes to pump up the stock price, even if it means sabotaging the long-term viability of the company. It's beyond time to start exploring new methods of investing.
            • by swillden (191260)

              An IPO is a one-time fundraiser that requires permanently surrendering control of your company to a bunch of greedy, short-sighted psychopaths who are only concerned with doing whatever it takes to pump up the stock price

              It's not one-time (well, the INITIAL public offering is, but it doesn't preclude later public offerings), and it doesn't require surrendering control, though it is necessary to take some steps up front to retain control.

              • People always come back with this argument, which is why I qualified it with IPO. And could you or someone else please explain how later public offerings don't dilute the ownership of the company amongst the existing shareholders?
          • Re:Bad idea (Score:4, Informative)

            by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:39AM (#47272095) Homepage Journal

            You can't - as I understand it - legally IPO to only those sharing your vision. You are going to get pension funds and hedge funds and ... purchasing slices of your company to diversify their portfolios. These may then not want you to go spending money on wild unprofitable in the next 10 years crap, but to make next years dividend larger.

            It's not quite that bad. It is possible to retain control; it just requires doing two things:

            1. Retain voting majority. This has been done for well over a century by media companies (newspapers, originally) going public, and is what Google and Facebook did. You issue two classes of shares, one of which has dramatically more voting power than the other. The insiders keep the high-voting shares, the public buys the weaker ones. Set the numbers to ensure that the insiders retain a voting majority. Google has recently taken a further step to split it's low-power shares into low-power and no-power shares (actually a dividend paid out in a class of new shares), so that it can continue issuing new shares of the non-voting sort without further diluting the founders' majority. This is well-traveled ground.

            2. Specify non-financial corporate goals in the prospectus and IPO materials, to make clear that accomplishing things like going to Mars are a higher priority than increasing shareholder value. This is necessary because otherwise it's assumed that the board and C-level execs have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value, and can be sued for failing to do so. It's always hard to make such a suit work, because it requires proving that an alternative course of action was clearly and obviously better, but as long as the company is following the goals stated up front to prospective buyers of the stock they can have no case at all. They knew they were buying a space exploration company that might generate some profits, rather than a profit-generating company that might explore the solar system.

            Non-profit corporate goals for a for-profit company is also well-traveled ground. Google's IPO made clear that search result integrity and nebulous forms of technological advancement in the area of information organization, as well as being a good corporate citizen, were as high a priority as profit. This allows the founders to exercise control without fear of lawsuits accusing them of not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities, since they can just say "Well, we told you money wasn't our only goal." There are lots of other examples. One very much on point is Tesla's prospectus, which made clear that advancing EV technology and helping to improve the environment are corporate goals, so Musk clearly knows exactly how this works.

            However, going public does add all sorts of complications and overheads, even if you structure it to avoid giving away control. If SpaceX really needed the influx of capital they could get from an IPO, it would make sense to jump through the hoops. But they don't, so it doesn't.

          • Well, obviously, Elon just needs to fund a $970 billion dollar Kickstarter.
               

        • For the same reason Leveraged Buy outs Work. Public companies are accountable to shareholders, who tend to be very short term focused (as in, give me money soon!). They do this even at the expense of longer term vision (as in, give me much more barrels of money mañana). A completely private enterprise allows you to ignore short term whims, and focus on making money, long term.

        • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:22AM (#47270735)

          What I don't get is: who cares about hedge fund managers?

          Because they are the ones that have the money. I'm not saying that to be snide, I just don't think you truly appreciate how cash flows on that sort of scale work. If the project isn't going to be government funded then you are going to have to get the money from large investors. Hedge fund investors would be a significant part of any such discussion since they own big stakes in most of the companies that would be involved in the engineering and financing of such a project.

          Just do an IPO for the general public, small investors all over the world are more than eager to pour their money into SpaceX, they are literally asking him for it!

          I appreciate your optimism but I think it is misplaced. Such a mission would cost at minimum, many billions of dollars. Probably hundreds of billions if not trillions. For comparison, the International Space Station which is barely out of the Earth's atmosphere has thus far cost $150 billion and that is FAR less complicated than getting a man to Mars. (that's roughly $500 for every person in America or ~$20 for every person on Earth) The chances of successfully crowd funding that via small investors is remote at best. I think you are greatly overestimating people's willingness and ability to fund such a risky endeavor, especially given that it is quite unclear whether a human could even survive the trip. With all due respect to Mr Musk I think the notion that we will have boots on Mars within 10-15 years is absurd unless one or more large nation states are enthusiastically behind the project and willing to fund it.

          • I appreciate your optimism but I think it is misplaced. Such a mission would cost at minimum, many billions of dollars. Probably hundreds of billions if not trillions. For comparison, the International Space Station which is barely out of the Earth's atmosphere has thus far cost $150 billion and that is FAR less complicated than getting a man to Mars.

            You forget that SpaceX has brought launch costs down by a significant factor already through nothing more than optimizing traditional launch architectures for cost. Making rockets reusable, which they have essentially demonstrated the capability of (at least for the first stage) promises to bring costs down by at least an order of magnitude, if not more. $200,000 is the cost for fuel IIRC, and of course you've got operations costs, but how much of the $60 mil per launch is on a throw-away vehicle? Don't for

            • by Immerman (2627577)

              If I recall correctly, I believe I heard that roughly 95% of the cost of a current launch is the throw-away vehicle, so being able to reuse it even a handful of times would reduce the launch costs dramatically.

              As far as LEO is concerned - it's not quite so simple. For radiation-hardened electronics that don't mind taking years to reach their destination, yes, it's halfway to anywhere. But for humans - LEO is still almost completely shielded from ionizing radiation by Earth's magnetosphere. As soon as you

      • It's like saying, "I'll get around to it when pigs fly," except in this case the pigs are being strapped to very large rockets.

  • by Beck_Neard (3612467) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @05:51AM (#47270243)

    Touch-and-go is pointless; having a permanent settlement is the only thing worth spending all that money for, as he's saying. But at the same time, I wonder what safeguards a Mars settlement would really give us as a species. By far the most likely way for us to go extinct is by self-extinction, and a Mars colony would not prevent that.

    • by idji (984038)
      Going to Mars won't save humanity, but working out how to live away from Earth could, even if that means learning on Mars how to live under the Earth to survive the 1450's imps, 1950's Apocalypse Godzillas and 2010's Biotech Zombies...
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      That depends - a self-sustaining colony that doesn't require support from Earth is probably a viable long-term project, and Mars is probably the most hospitable place to build such a thing - mild effective temperatures (once you consider that the atmosphere is so thin it conducts minimal heat, local water sources, and an unlimited supply of CO2 delivered right to your doorstep.

      And once you've got a self-sustaining colony you have species survival insurance. Global warfare is unlikely to involve a strategica

    • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

      Personally as a sci-fi writer I like Ceres much better then Mars. It has a rocky core, but it's mostly solid water (aka Ice) having more water as mass then the entire Oceans of Earth. It has low gravity so transportation is effectively cheap, while not being actually 'zero-G' and so should help with some of the medical risks of pure zero-G stays. It even has signs of a very limited atmosphere of evaporated water. It's also situated in the 'asteroid belt' just past Mars.

      If we do go to Mars we may want to ste

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @05:53AM (#47270255) Journal
    Ooh, the mob is at it again, this time they want to dump a body on mars.
    • That's 'cause the desert is filling up with idiots building space ports. There's no room to dump bodies any more. When all ya got is lemons, make lemonade.
  • by stiggle (649614) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @06:01AM (#47270279)

    He's building his framework of companies to support a colony there.

    SpaceX to get there and then Tesla electric propulsion charged via better efficient solar panels from Solar City, needed due to the dimmer sun further out in the solar system.

    Just needs a building system using Martian resources next (concrete based on martian dust)

    • by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:54AM (#47270621) Journal

      There's plenty of minerals on Mars. Maybe the first few years you'll have to stick to the imported habitat module, but if you send some geologists / chemists / minerologists in your first wave you'll likely figure out in quick order what you can mine / smelt into building materials.

    • Sounds like he's in the middle of some Space Civ V and he has a winning strategy, at least for the foreseeable future.

    • He's building his framework of companies to support a colony there.

      The problem isn't building a framework of companies (which he only is if you squint and tilt your head just right), the problem is building a framework of technology. He (or more actually we) are missing two key ones - a dependable life support system with sufficient endurance to get there and a way to land the vehicle(s). And that's *without* considering the complete lack of any significant development in in-situ resource development. Or

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @06:28AM (#47270373)

    There was a story last week about how extroverts would be the worst possible people to have along on a multi-month trip to mars in a very small spaceship. That is something that introverts are better suited for doing.

    Extroverts Don't Belong on Mars [theatlantic.com]

    • yes, because we all just shut down when things get awkward and stair at the ground. what will we do when the internet latency is 2m RTT?

  • by gweihir (88907)

    Kill. Freeze-dry. Compress. Ship. See?

  • Ok, next question. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by will_die (586523) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:08AM (#47270511) Homepage
    When does he plan to get the first person from Mars back to Earth?
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:32AM (#47270559)

      The only reason to bother doing so is PR. Keeping them alive for a few years is easier than bringing them back, and there is plenty of science to be done. The rovers have barely scraped the surface - literally.

      Don't view it as suicide. Everyone dies eventually - a mars trip just hastens the inevitable.

      • It doesn't have to hasten it though. While it may be incredibly romantic to go somewhere to do science for a couple of years, and die gloriously in the service of the goddess Knowledge, if we do colonization right, it's more like committing not to go home for a couple decades.

        Sure, the first 10-20 years building up Mars City will take a lot of time, but if you pick young people (under 30) then you have maybe 30-40 years to build up the Mars-Earth Express bus line. You just have to ensure that once they ge

        • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @08:01AM (#47270649)

          Aside from the problem of a life support and food production system that can operate for 30 years, with a lead time on spare parts measured in years, and fresh supply shipments very limited. Plus the severe lack of medical services. Eventually a reliable colony would be possible - but the first few waves will just have to hope nothing breaks down and that the political environment back on earth keeps the resupply rockets flowing.

          • Except you can get air from the dirt on the surface of Mars. It's mostly iron oxide, harvesting the Oxide you get Iron + Oxygen -- both two useful items. Water is available in frozen form, or you can make it by a) recycling your own waste and b) getting hydrogen from the soil. Methane can also be harvested from Mars. I forget the exact chemistry involved but I know it's possible.

            So now you have a source of energy, a source of air, and something to drink. Bring along some seeds for your new vegetable ga

            • Harvesting the oxide means you're bringing earth-moving equipment, chemical processing, and a furnace - either solar or nuclear. All of which is going to need maintenance and spares.

              Even sending robotic missions ahead, it would be possibly the single most expensive project in the history of mankind.

              • "It's going to cost a lot of money" is not really a good argument as to why we shouldn't do it.

                It cost a lot of money to send out Columbus to find the new world. Would you say that was a bad investment?

                The key is benefit vs money paid in, along with payment schedule. I would wager that once we start colonizing the stars, we'll find trade between earth and its new found colonies will cause the economy to grow.

                Getting to that point will be expensive, but the return on investment is worth it.

                Besides, total c

      • The type of person you want on a dangerous and risky mission to mars is one with strong survival instincts, one who will do everything in his means to ensure the survival of the mission. That is the exact opposite of the type of person who'd volunteer for a one-way mission. You do not want a person willing to die in charge of a multi billion dollar endeavour. And if you did volunteer on that mission, you wouldn't want your team members to be suicidally prone.
    • The MCT concept he's described includes a free ride back to earth. I believe the architecture he's envisioned is something like the Aldrin cycler (at least in some respects). The transporter is going to move ~100 people from Earth to Mars, and then go back to Earth for another load. Adding a few homesick passengers for the return trip won't be a significant burden on that kind of vehicle.
  • Evolution in action! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wisebabo (638845) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:09AM (#47270513) Journal

    Since we don't know what the long term effects of low-gee gravity (Mars is 1/3 that of Earth) as well as the higher level of background radiation (Mars' atmosphere is too thin to screen out a lot it), we're going to be evolving a new race of Humans! (I guess we'll call them Martians).

    This is the way Nature has done it for billions of years and it's worked. It's called Evolution. Sounds fine except Evolution works through DEATH, DEATH killing off those who can't survive long enough to pass along their genes to the next generation. So we may find that the first generation of colonists on Mars are going to have an absolutely horrific death rate (in addition to all the problems they'll run into with accidents, running out of supplies, breakdowns, etc.) but the next generation will be less so and so on. This is not a pretty picture but then again Nature; "red in tooth and claw" rarely is.

    The only way to make sure that there are enough Humans to evolve into Martians is to have a very high birth rate. So perhaps, as Dr. Strangelove would have it, we should have a wildly disproportionate sex ratio of females to males, in order to have the maximum population growth ("and they should be of a highly stimulating sexual nature" :). So maybe there's something in it for (men) to go to Mars!

    Of course we could actually avoid all this trauma (and sex?) by avoiding the natural selection process of Nature by fully understanding the problems we will face. Then we could either, pre-select the individuals who happened to be genetically endowed to survive and reproduce under those conditions or genetically engineer people who can. But that would actually require spending (comparatively little) money on such things as a centrifuge for the ISS to study mammalian reproduction under partial-gee situations. Since our species is not particularly good at planning (climate change anyone?) it appears as if we may be colonizing the old fashioned way; send a lot of people and see who lives.

    I think the first polynesians to cross the pacific in their canoes, the first americans to walk across the bering strait and even the first pilgrims to land in New England (1/3 died the first winter) would sympathize.

    • by dcw3 (649211)

      Since our species is not particularly good at planning (climate change anyone?)

      Okay, I'll bite. What does one have to do with the other?

    • by asylumx (881307)
      Actually, evolution works through life, not death. The best adaptations for the given environment get to reproduce and produce young. It is entirely possible that in low gravity, something in our reproductive systems doesn't work as we'd expect and it becomes much more difficult to produce children -- in which case, the natural selection would be through which mutations allow children to be conceived and raised rather than through death.

      I think you may have a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution i
    • Mars has an atmosphere about 3% the density of earth's. You can keep pushing people out the airlock forver and they won't evolve into anything but a bigger pile of frozen corpses.

  • Toxic Mars (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Silpher (1379267) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:18AM (#47270529)

    Too bad Maris is toxic as fuck : http://www.newscientist.com/ar... [newscientist.com]

  • by Snufu (1049644) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:23AM (#47270541)

    Anything but blankets.

  • by Snufu (1049644) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:27AM (#47270549)

    Give us a gun big enough and we'll get you there in a few weeks.

    H.G. Wells Aerospace

  • Heinlein's answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sabbede (2678435) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:48AM (#47270607)
    Anybody remember the Long Run Foundation from "Time for the Stars"? Because it sounds like that's what Elon needs.
  • by Brandano (1192819) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @07:57AM (#47270635)
    I would be pretty pissed off if I were to find myself on Mars all of a sudden with no explanation.
  • "...dead or alive"
  • He actually said, "...by 2026 I will put a human, specifically my ex-wife, on Mars"

    And as a gold digger, she may qualify as the mission's mining engineer.
  • Tesla is not producing affordable family car yet. He needs a gigafactory to make batteries first. Then got side tracked into packing people into some sort of tubes used by the tellers in drive through banking window. Then he is going on to Solar city that hopes to become a distributed power supplying utility that does not need any public rights of way. That requires mega billions in investments. Now suddenly putting a man in Mars.

    Musk, any one project you have done would earn you a lasting place in history

    • Tesla is not producing affordable family car yet. He needs a gigafactory to make batteries first. Then got side tracked into packing people into some sort of tubes used by the tellers in drive through banking window. Then he is going on to Solar city that hopes to become a distributed power supplying utility that does not need any public rights of way. That requires mega billions in investments. Now suddenly putting a man in Mars.

      Musk, any one project you have done would earn you a lasting place in history. If you successfully complete the solar city and electric passenger car alone, you will be compared to the likes of Ford, Bell, Edison... Please focus on finishing what you started instead of constantly shifting focus like someone afflicted with attention deficit disorder.

      Because it's clearly impossible for affordable electric cars to be developed at the same time as affordable rockets... Musk isn't shifting focus. SpaceX has always, always been about getting to Mars. Musk has just been revealing more of that mission publicly, as he's gained credibility for his successes and won't be laughed off stage anymore. Many have suggested that SolarCity and Tesla are each part of that big picture as well - high efficiency power generation and transportation will both be significant r

  • by Scot Seese (137975) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @10:36AM (#47272043)

    I admire Elon Musk. But he's dead wrong. Neil Degrasse Tyson is right.

    As others have pointed out, taking your company public means surrendering a significant amount of control over the long term. Board members and share holders like revenue. It's all about the next quarter. They don't like pet projects that are giant money sinks without the remote possibility of a return. Persist on that path post-IPO Elon, and watch yourself be fired from your own company, ala Steve Jobs.

    NDGT is spot on the issue of exploration. It takes a government interested in (mostly) pure science without profit motivation.

    You want to put people on Mars? I'll tell you what puts people on Mars - the U.S. government thumbing their nose in the face of Chinese ascendancy - Ala Cold War 2: Space Boogaloo.

    Let the government, or team of governments blow tax dollars on building Mars mission tech. That tech will filter down to private enterprise years later, so the next generation of Elon Musks can farm minerals off asteroids, or some other future commercial endeavor.

    Elon is overreaching with this.

       

    • by bledri (1283728)

      I admire Elon Musk. But he's dead wrong. Neil Degrasse Tyson is right.

      I admire Neil Degrasse Tyson, but he's basically shilling for NASA. (I like NASA, more on their limits below.) And he is over simplifying what people's motivations where.

      As others have pointed out, taking your company public means surrendering a significant amount of control over the long term. Board members and share holders like revenue. It's all about the next quarter. They don't like pet projects that are giant money sinks without the remote possibility of a return. Persist on that path post-IPO Elon, and watch yourself be fired from your own company, ala Steve Jobs.

      Good thing Elon Musk has stated over and over that he won't take SpaceX public until all the long term development is done, specifically for those reasons.

      NDGT is spot on the issue of exploration. It takes a government interested in (mostly) pure science without profit motivation.

      You want to put people on Mars? I'll tell you what puts people on Mars - the U.S. government thumbing their nose in the face of Chinese ascendancy - Ala Cold War 2: Space Boogaloo.

      Let the government, or team of governments blow tax dollars on building Mars mission tech. That tech will filter down to private enterprise years later, so the next generation of Elon Musks can farm minerals off asteroids, or some other future commercial endeavor.

      NASA lives and dies by congressional funding and congressional funding is fickle. NASA has done great things, but those days are over and where basically a fluke. President's come in, t

  • If only there was an organization who could work with SpaceX towards this goal. This organization would have to be goal-driven rather than profit-driven. Years ago, that would have been NASA, but we had to gut their funding because they're not as essential as blowing up people of other religions on the other side of the planet nor do NASA's endeavors bring back a big enough return on investment.

    The whole thing is really a shame. If we hadn't already gone to the moon and attempted to do so today, the m

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