2018-03-29 15:32:07 UTC
By Mike Wall, Space.com Senior Writer | March 28, 2018 07:49am ET
Mars Colony Would Be a Hedge Against World War III, Elon Musk Says
SpaceX is developing a reusable rocket-spaceship system called the BFR
to help make Mars settlement economically feasible.
Humanity's brutal and bellicose past provides ample justification for
pursuing settlements on the moon and Mars, Elon Musk says.
The billionaire entrepreneur has long stressed that he founded SpaceX in
2002 primarily to help make humanity a multiplanet species — a giant
leap that would render us much less vulnerable to extinction.
Human civilization faces many grave threats over the long haul, from
asteroid strikes and climate change to artificial intelligence run amok,
Musk has said over the years. And he recently highlighted our
well-documented inability to get along with each other as another
frightening factor. [The BFR: SpaceX's Mars Colony Plan in Images]
"Last century, we had two massive world wars — three if you count the
Cold War," Musk said earlier this month at the SXSW festival in Austin,
Texas. "I think it's unlikely that we'll never have another world war
He emphasized that he's not predicting an imminent global conflict, only
that one is likely to occur at some point in the future, given
humanity's track record. If and when that next big war occurs, Musk
added, it could usher in a planet-wide "dark ages."
"Then we want to make sure that there's enough of a seed of human
civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps
shorten the length of the dark ages," he said. "I think a moon base and
a Mars base that could perhaps help regenerate life back here on Earth
would be really important, and to get that done before a possible World
A Mars base would be a sturdier civilization bulwark than a moon
settlement because the Red Planet is farther from Earth, Musk added. But
it's worth setting up shop on both worlds, as each outpost would thin
our risk, he said.
Musk isn't all talk on this topic; SpaceX is developing a huge, reusable
rocket-spaceship combo called the BFR, with the chief aim of making Mars
colonization economically feasible. Musk unveiled the latest plans for
this transportation system at a conference in Australia last September,
and he gave a brief progress update at SXSW.
"We're actually building that ship right now," he said, referring to a
BFR spaceship prototype. "I think we'll probably be able to do short
flights, short sort of up-and-down flights, probably sometime in the
first half of next year."
Musk has previously said that, if everything goes well with the BFR's
development, the first crewed flights to Mars could lift off in the 2020s.
And getting back to existential threats: A global war and accompanying
dark ages aren't at the top of Musk's list of concerns. At SXSW, he
sounded the alarm once again about artificial intelligence (AI) and
called for some form of public regulation of the rapidly advancing
"The danger of AI is much greater than the danger of nuclear warheads,
by a lot, and nobody would suggest that we allow anyone to just build
nuclear warheads if they want. That would be insane," he said.
"If humanity collectively decides that creating digital
superintelligence is the right move, then we should do so very, very
carefully — very, very carefully," Musk added. "This is the most
important thing that we can possibly do."
Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us
@Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.
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