Tech billionaire Elon Musk is a man who has set his sights on transforming our world, from his push towards a future of electric cars (through his company Tesla) and solar power, through to him taking the lead on ‘corporate space vehicles’ with SpaceX. And today, he set out perhaps the grandest vision of space exploration heard since John F. Kennedy issued his challenge for the U.S. to travel to the Moon before the 1960s had ended.
“What I really want to try and achieve here is to make Mars seem possible…Make it seem as though it’s something we can do in our lifetimes, and that you can go.”, he noted in his speech today at the 67th International Astronautical Congress, in Guadalajara, Mexico. He then went on to discuss the ‘long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars’. (His hour-long presentation is embedded below, as well as a shorter ‘highlights’ package created by The Verge.)
For me, as a child of the 1970s who – after viewing the amazing images of of the Viking probes – thought that we’d be traveling to the Red Planet before the next decade was done, Musk’s vision is seductive. Maybe I will one day get to venture to Mars myself! On the other hand, the technical challenges are not trivial – from getting off this planet, to staying safe and sane on the journey there, and then landing and setting up a settlement.
But, when you consider the success of JFK’s challenge, perhaps what Musk is doing here is exactly what is needed. Stop talking in increments, in absolute safety, and instead have a grand vision and set yourself a timeline to try and do the near-impossible.
What do you think of Musk’s vision of space travel?
Below are some links to news coverage of the announcement: