The Race to the Red Planet: Elon Musk may fly us to Mars and beyond
With the exotic name, the brilliant mind, the outlandish job title, and the handsome face, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, may have briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a supervillain.
Everything Elon Musk does is huge; in December, his company donated $1 billion towards OpenAI, a brand new, artificial-intelligence research center. More recently, Musk has declared that he is shooting for a 2018 launch date for SpaceX's trip to Mars-pretty crazy stuff. Even more insane? He plans to "colonize" Mars, saying:
It's a fundamental decision we have to make as a civilization. Mars is the next, natural step. In fact, it's the only planet we really have a shot at establishing a self-sustaining city on.
Self-sustaining city?! Alright, Musk, the jig is up-where is The Justice League when you need them?
Google his name, and your certain to find several fresh news articles weekly on Elon Musk's next, big endeavor. A few weeks ago, Tesla's first affordable, electric automobile amassed $180 million in pre-order deposits alone; if every last one of those several-hundred thousand people actually pay in full for their vehicles, the company will have sold $7.5 billion worth of cars.
Musk seems driven by an optimistic and childlike commitment to discovery-while testing the proverbial waters of Mars exploration, the billionaire has invested more time and money than you've ever had in life-extension research, and has said that Tesla cars will soon be completely autonomous by the year 2020. How is this all possible for one man?
GQ ran an article and interview with Elon Musk in late 2015, following the OpenAI announcement that provides some sort of explanation:
The visionary technological genius occupies a strange place in the modern cultural psyche, as shown by the current battles in Steve Jobs's afterlife over who he was and what he did, and how those two things are related. Right now, I can only think of two living people who seem close to occupying a similar role in the public imagination: Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
And while this is likely the truth, there's something inhabiting Elon Musk's persona that allows him to transcend the two other intellects/celebrities; it's his seeming intentions. While we have little aside from YouTube interviews and Hollywood films to paint a muddied picture of both Zuckerberg's and Jobs' personality, Elon Musk retains his conviction, his enigmatic personality, and his one-of-a-kind life story-one eager, it seems, to be dramatized and put to film. All the world waits on what he'll do next-not for the sake of his company, or to wipe out competitors; what Musk will do next may be exclusively done for us. All of us-not just technology junkies and internet jingoists (so he says).
Elon Musk and his predicted Mars trip pits him against his now-and-again collaborators, NASA. As he shoots for the stars, so do they-but what makes this trip so important? We have "conquered the moon" by the mere placement of a flag pole upon its surface; how will Mars be any different?
Well, Musk believes that this flight-seemingly short-lived in the grand scheme of things-is absolutely essential to the preservation of human life. NBC News even says the plan is "to protect against human extinction." So while Musk's popularity and intellect grows ostensibly without limit, it may be somewhat wise to consider your options: just in case he's the next Magneto.