Elon Musk is a rock star. When he speaks, people take notice. People dream dreams of stars passing by as they fly to another planet. They tell their friends and imagine a life where a multi-planetary world complete with colonies on Mars is a reality. Musk has a gift. He invites people into his vision and lights their hearts on fire with promises of what could be.
His company, SpaceX, claims they will have a colony of humans on Mars by 2020. He goes on to promise the hope that within another decade or two a fully functioning self-sustaining colony will exist with hundreds of humans traveling to our red sister planet every few months on thirty day flights. That sounds awesome, of course, who wouldn’t want to see another planet?
I hate to be that guy…but really?
Click here to see the last rocket launch by SpaceX. It’s, shall we say, spectacular and fiery! Let’s just say they have a few kinks to iron out before we all move in to Mayberry on Mars.
I get it. It’s exciting to dream about interplanetary space travel. Our society eats up science fiction movies involving space travel…and literally had a movie about space travel to Mars. I enjoy it myself, I have personally written several fantasy novels. The problem with SpaceX and Musk is not the great dreams…it’s the great price tag. It would be one thing if he got a group of fellow billionaires to pony up for all of this magnificent space travel, but instead it’s the American taxpayer buying rocket explosions.
America already has a government agency that pushes the final frontier, it’s called NASA. Back when I was a kid they blew things up. I still remember where I was when Challenger slipped an O-ring seal and crashed and burned back to earth. That reminded every American the dangers of space travel. Just because it’s dangerous, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
I think it would be awesome if there was a colony on Mars. I just think if it is government funded it should be NASA and if it is a commercial business enterprise it can be SpaceX or anyone with the rockets and the guts to launch. Musk could sell his great designs to the power players of the world and fund his entire enterprise. Of course, when we all get to Mars we might find towns named Soros or Gates or Zuckerberg.
Musk has already accumulated around $4.9 billion in government funds for SpaceX and his other two companies (Tesla and Solar City). He is asking for more. It’s expensive when things go boom!
The question remains…is Elon Musk a straight up visionary or out and out snake oil salesman?
Congress better decide, because Musk is coming armed with amazing videos with delusions of grandeur and they are going to be asked to pay the bill. If we are going to give billions to a guy like Musk with almost no oversight, why wouldn’t we just fund NASA in a big way instead? Maybe we should start with building a little colony on our Moon first…before we launch for Mars?
But what do I know about it? I’m just a guy who writes about politics and loves fantastical stories. I just like those two worlds, fantasy and politics, to remain separate, because when you start funding fantasy with taxpayer dollars, you’ve gone too far.
In fifty or a hundred years Musk may go down as the key visionary who launched our dreams of far off worlds into a reality. However, he could just as easily become a footnote in the journal of amazing ideas that didn’t work. That type of risk should be left to the adventurous spirit of private enterprise, not government funding from your favorite crony.