Whenever someone says something will happen in the next twenty years, you can take that as code for “I have no idea when this will happen, but I really hope it’ll happen soon!”
With that in mind, in the next twenty years the cost of sending a human being to Mars will become affordable for the average person. Or at least that’s the promise made by Elon Musk in his scientific paper/personal manifesto “Making Humans a Multi-Planet Species.”
In that paper/manifesto, Musk says, “In fact, right now, you cannot go to Mars for infinite money.” That’s a blunt way of putting it. Musk goes on to say that if Apollo-era technology were revived, it would cost about $10 billion per person to send humans to Mars. But Musk believes his company, SpaceX, can reduce the cost to a mere $200,000 per person.
That’s still a whole lot of money. Who can afford that? But before you dismiss what Musk is saying, consider this: the average person heading to Mars would not be going on a whim or as a tourist. Choosing to travel to Mars would be a major life decision. You’d be going there to stay, to help colonize the Red Planet, to start a new life on a new world.
That $200,000 price tag is comparable, according to Musk’s estimation, to the median average cost of buying a home in the U.S. So the choice we’d all have can be framed this way: would you rather buy a house on Earth or a ticket to Mars?
If I could ask Musk one question, it would be can I get a mortgage on my Mars ticket? Based on some of the other things Musk says in his manifesto, I suspect the answer would be yes, something like a mortgage would be possible.
I have to admit I’d have a hard time deciding what to do in this future Mr. Musk envisions. I’d probably choose to go to Mars, but I also really like my house on Earth. It would be hard for me to give that up. Hard, but not impossible.
So if we were all living twenty years from now, which would you choose: a house on Earth or a ticket to Mars?