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In recent years entrepreneur Elon Musk has put himself at the forefront of the emerging commercial space industry with his company SpaceX enjoying multiple orbital rocket launch successes (as well as the development of their self-returning, reusable rocket systems).
Just last year Musk dreamt big when discussing the future of space travel, saying it was his goal to see a million people living on Mars within 50 years. But with a population that large, the logistics and planning wouldn’t just involve space travel, but would also have to take into consideration a variety of social, economic and political factors. For instance, Who would be in charge? Who would be mayor, or governor, or president of the Red Planet?
Never fear, the answer may have already been given to us: in 1949, Wernher von Braun – former Nazi rocketeer, soon to be NASA’s star rocket designer – wrote a science fiction book about humanity’s first mission to Mars.Von Braun put his considerable technical knowledge to use (according to many reviewers, perhaps adding *too* much detail) in writing Project Mars: A Technical Tale. In his story, set in the 1980s, ten large space ships make the journey, a project which required “upwards of 1,000 flights into Earth’s orbit” in order to “build, supply and fuel these ten ships, and it is an international, cooperative project.”
By chapter 22 of von Braun’s novel, the human visitors have discovered a peaceful indigenous civilization that resides underground on Mars (remembering when he wrote it, little was known about the planet’s habitability). And then, in chapter 24, we are given an outline of how Mars is governed by this civilization. It’s here that we come across a wonderfully surprising discovery:
The Martian government was directed by ten men, the leader of whom was elected by universal suffrage for five years and entitled “Elon.” Two houses of Parliament enacted the laws to be administered by the Elon and his cabinet.
The Upper House was called the Council of the Elders and was limited to a membership of 60 persons, each being appointed for life by the Elon as vacancies occurred by death. In principle, the method was not unlike that by which the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church is appointed. Usually the Elon chose historians, churchmen, former cabinet members or successful economic leaders who could offer lifetimes of valuable experience.
Yes, you heard von Braun – one of the progenitors of human space travel – correctly: the leader of Martian civilization is called ‘Elon’, the same name as Elon Musk, who is currently leading the field of human space travel. Predestination, time vortex, or just a delicious coincidence? Maybe throw this one in the Mars weirdness file with Jack Kirby drawing the Face on Mars in a comic 17 years before it was discovered…
Wernher von Braun’s Project Mars: A Technical Tale is available to download in multiple formats from archive.org.