Elon Musk SXSW Speech: SpaceX Will Reboot Humanity After WWIII With Mars Colonies
If you picked up Andy Weir's Artemis this past year, then you probably got a glimpse of what space colonization will look like on the Moon: low gravity, tourists, and rich folks living in Moon mansions. Elon Musk, who made a surprise appearance at SXSW this past week, has a very different vision for what Mars Base Alpha will look like.
It's time to stop focussing on colonizing the Red Planet as an interstellar Club Med exclusively for the ultra-rich, Musk said. In weeks preceded by Russia's nuclear saber rattling (they just announced the creation of the world's most powerful nuke), Musk revealed the true purpose for a Mars colony is far more altruistic: to provide a backup plan for all of humanity for when World War III hits.
"It's important to get a self-sustaining base on Mars because it's far enough away from Earth that [in the event of a war] it's more likely to survive than a moon base," Musk said. "If there's a third world war we want to make sure there's enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring it back and shorten the length of the dark ages."
Of course, in order to prepare for that post-apocalypse future, Mars is going to need pioneers, not tourists. Musk reiterated his last note about how dangerous it's going to be, and admitted again that a lot of people are going to die.
"It kind of reads like Shackleton's ad for Antarctic explorers: Difficult, dangerous, a good chance you'll die, excitement for those who survive. I think there's not many people who will actually want to go in the beginning because all those things are true. But there will be some for whom the excitement of the frontier and the exploration exceeds the considered danger."
But Musk is a businessman, not just a space explorer. During the discussion with screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, Musk said that the colonization of Mars will be a planet-sized boon to entrepreneurs of all stripes:
"Once [the Big Falcon Rocket] has been built and there is a means of getting cargo and people to and from Mars as well as to and from the moon and other places in the solar system then I think that's really where a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial resources will be needed because you've got to build out the entire base industry...Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs. Mars should definitely have great bars."
Another big change Musk foresees happening on Mars is the abandonment of a representative democracy in favor of direct democracy, where every person on the colony has one vote rather than using a congress or electoral college. It's exciting to hear about Musk's plans for Mars society, of course, but the real question is how he plans to get people there. That's where the BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, comes in. Musk announced that the experimental craft, which so far has remained mostly a mystery, will be doing basic takeoffs and landings next year.
After the BFR comes online, Musk's general plan is to scout Mars, construct a fuel factory there, start sending crews to the planet, and then begin colonization. When the colonies will collapse into a dystopian cult of personality around Musk himself, we're not sure.