SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has some ambitious plans to turn humanity into an multiplanetary species.
With the aid of a fleet of Starship spacecraft, the intrepid billionaire wants to establish a permanent foothold on Mars, one million people strong, by 2050.
Now, Musk is publicly fleshing out his vision further.
"Life in glass domes at first," Musk wrote in a Thursday tweet, responding to a question about what life on Mars will look like early on. "Eventually, terraformed to support life, like Earth."
Scientists and science fiction authors have long suggested that terraforming could allow humans to breathe on the open Martian surface. But that vision is still a distant dream — far beyond the first Martian bases, according to Musk.
"Terraforming will be too slow to be relevant in our lifetime," Musk wrote in a follow-up tweet. "However, we can establish a human base there in our lifetime. At least a future spacefaring civilization — discovering our ruins — will be impressed humans got that far."
Terraforming Mars is indeed a massive undertaking. An analysis last year concluded that it may require 3,500 nuclear warheads every single day to increase Mars' atmospheric pressure to breathable levels and melt the planet's ice caps in order to release carbon dioxide, which will then be trapped in the form of greenhouses gases.
But there's one big snag with that plan. The ensuing radiation would also turn the surface completely inhabitable.
And a 2018 study also concluded that there simply isn't enough trapped carbon dioxide on the Red Planet to sufficiently raise enough atmospheric pressure to sustain humans on the surface.
But those limitations aren't going to stop Musk from going after his dream of establishing a permanent presence there.
Musk has previously claimed that with the help of "a thousand" Starship spacecraft, massive rockets he says will be capable of carrying to 100 tons of cargo or 100 passengers between planets, "a sustainable Mars city" could be established. About 100 vehicles would each have to carry 100 tons of cargo every two years, according to Musk's calculations.
Early settlements might look a little rough around the edges.
"Getting to Mars, I think, is not the fundamental issue," he said during a September virtual Humans to Mars summit. "The fundamental issue is building a base, building a city on Mars that is self-sustaining."
"I want to emphasize, this is a very hard and dangerous and difficult thing," he added at the time. "Not for the faint of heart. Good chance you’ll die. And it’s going to be tough, tough going, but it’ll be pretty glorious if it works out."
The ambition lies very close to the entrepreneur's heart — or at least his marketing strategy.
"If we don’t improve our pace of progress, I’m definitely going to be dead before we go to Mars," Musk said during the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington back in March.
His space company has come a long way in turning Starship a reality. Several early prototypes have already taken to the skies, albeit only to a height of roughly 500 feet. In the following weeks, the first prototype will attempt fly to an altitude to nine miles.
If everything goes according to Musk's ambitious plan, the first Starship will make its way to Mars as soon as 2024.
READ MORE: Terraform Mars: Elon Musk says a Mars city of 'glass domes' comes first [Inverse]
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