CEO and co-founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, not only wants to send astronauts to Mars, he wants to build a city there.
SpaceX is vying with Boeing Co. for a $US3 billion project that would have astronauts in spacecraft launching from U.S. soil again. Since the U.S. retired its fleet of space shuttles in 2011, NASA has been dependent on Russia to ferry its astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station.
That arrangement has proved to be increasingly sticky given the increased tensions between the two countries since Russia has aggressively moved to annex Ukraine.
NASA executives hope to have the spacecraft and launching capabilities to send humans into orbit by 2017.
SpaceX, one of two private companies ferrying supplies, food and scientific experiments to the space shuttle, wants to be the company ferrying humans as well.
And in a press conference last week, Musk reportedly reiterated that he wants to populate Mars and he wants SpaceX to be the company at the core of that project.
Musk told a group of reporters that winning the $3 billion project, which is expected to be announced this month, would be a solid step toward his goal of creating cities on Mars, according to a report in Bloomberg.com.
In last week's press conference, Musk echoed what he said over the summer in an interview with Stephen Colbert, host of the TV show, The Colbert Report.
"We're aspiring to send people to Mars," Musk said on the show. "If humanity is on more than one planet if we're a multi-planet species... then civilization as we know it -- the light of consciousness -- will likely propagate much further than if we're a single-planet species. And although I'm quite optimistic about life on Earth, at some point there's likely to be some calamity, either natural or man made. I'm not a doomsdayer but that preserves the future of humanity. It's like life insurance, collectively."
Other than hoping to save the human species, Musk also said colonizing Mars would be thrilling.
"It would be just the greatest adventure ever," he said. "It would be really exciting and inspiring... It is a fixer upper of a planet. It's going to take some work but it's possible to transform Mars into an Earth-like planet."
SpaceX is scheduled to launch a resupply mission to the space station on Sept. 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Along with cargo of food and equipment, the spacecraft also will carry what's been dubbed the ISS-RapidScat instrument.
The instrument is a replacement for NASA's QuikScat Earth satellite, which has been monitoring ocean winds for climate research, weather predictions, and hurricane monitoring.
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