Newt Gingrich may have been decried as a lunatic when he declared his intent, if elected, to establish a colony on the moon — but he didn’t have the astronautical chops of SpaceX founder Elon Musk. At a recent presentation to London’s Royal Aeronautical Society, Musk stated that he envisions a “future 80,000-person colony as a public-private enterprise” on Mars. Previously Musk—also the billionaire brain behind Paypal, Tesla and the proposed solar-powered Hyperloop train—has said that he hopes for flights to Mars to be available through his private space travel company at a cost of around $500,000 per person.
Earlier this year, Musk’s SpaceX company set a milestone in space exploration when it sent the first private unmanned spacecraft to the International Space Station. With cut-backs in government spending on space exploration, SpaceX has a sizable niche to fill – and in the past Musk made no secret of his intent to send craft (and people) to Mars.
He elaborated on these ideas in his lecture to the Royal Aeronautical Society. In a summary of his plans he suggested that early flights would consist of 10 people or less, carrying larger amounts of supplies. But once a colony and flights are established there would be the possibility of transporting 100 people or more at any given time—and he believes that there would be enough individuals interested in selling their earthly possessions and moving to Mars to make a reasonable business case for the missions.
Musk also noted another case for establishing an Martian colony; “[t]here’s 7 billion people on Earth, we’ll probably reach about 8 billion this century and the world as a whole is getting richer,” he explained “so I think if even one in 10,000 people decided to make the move, or one in 100,000,” then such a colony could be viable.