Ready to start a new life on Mars? Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur vying to send humans to the red planet within the next decade, claimed on Monday that the cost of a ticket will one day enable “most people in advanced economies” to feasibly give up their Earth-bound dwellings and move to Mars.
The SpaceX CEO stated via Twitter that he’s “confident” moving to Mars will one day cost $500,000 for a return ticket, possibly dropping further to below $100,000. These figures, Musk explained, are “very dependent on volume.” It comes as SpaceX is working to complete the Starship, a fully reusable stainless steel vehicle designed to comfortably transport around 100 humans to Mars and even beyond. The Starship uses liquid oxygen and methane to power its Raptor engines, meaning humans can set up a propellant plant on Mars to create more fuel and return to Earth. Musk claimed on Monday that “there’s a path” to building the Starship for less than the Falcon 9 SpaceX currently uses to send satellites into space, estimated to cost $62 million.
Part of Musk’s plan is to make the cost of upping sticks and moving to Mars as attractive as possible, as Mars will need large numbers of people to help develop a sustainable colony. Musk said at the 2016 International Astronautical Congressthat “Mars would have labor shortage for a long time so jobs wouldn’t be in short supply.” To make the offer attractive, Musk explained that the company would have to bring the cost of moving down to the median cost of a house in the United States of around $200,000. Reaching this figure, Musk said, would mean “the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilization is very high.”
SpaceX aims to send the first people to Mars as early as 2024. The trip is likely to take somewhere around three to six months. The company’s 2017 design for the Starship included a cargo area with 825 cubic meters of pressurized volume, with 40 cabins that could fit six people at the very maximum for 240 people total. The first visitors would be tasked with setting up systems like recycling, energy, and surface mobility before turning their attention to building out into multiple Martian cities.
The company completed a test firing of its Raptor engine this month. It now plans to complete short “hop tests” with a miniature Starship “hopper” design before targeting an orbital prototype for 2020.
While the ship itself is making fast progress, it could be a long time before SpaceX’s grander Mars city idea takes shape. Lewis Dartnell, a research scientist at the University of Westminster, told Inverse in October that it will “probably be more like 50-100 years” before enough people move to Mars to create sustainable towns.