Elon Musk Says a 'Bunch of People Will Probably Die' When Humans Fly to Mars: 'Volunteers Only'

Elon Musk has said he thinks SpaceX can send humans to Mars by 2026, while NASA has said it hopes for a mission as early as the 2030s

Elon Musk
Elon Musk. Photo: Jeff Vespa/WireImage

Elon Musk's SpaceX may not have plans to send humans to Mars anytime soon — but when it does, those on board may want to take caution.

The tech mogul and SpaceX CEO warned in a recent interview that "a bunch of people will probably die" in the beginning stages of Mars exploration as his company works out the kinks of traveling to the Red Planet.

"Going to Mars reads like that ad book for [explorer Ernest] Shackleton going to the Antarctic," Musk, 49, told Peter Diamandis in a lengthy interview that streamed live on YouTube on Thursday. "It's dangerous, it's uncomfortable, it's a long journey. You might not come back alive. But it's a glorious adventure, and it'll be an amazing experience."

He continued: "You might die… and you probably won't have good food and all these things. It's an arduous and dangerous journey where you may not come back alive, but it's a glorious adventure. Sounds appealing. Mars is the place. That's the ad, that's the ad for Mars."

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When Diamandis pointed out that plenty of people were still sending in applications to take part in a journey to Mars, Musk again remarked that explorers should be careful what they wish for.

"I mean, honestly, a bunch of people probably will die in the beginning," he said. "It's tough sledding over there, you know? … We don't want to make anyone go, so… Volunteers only."

Musk, who was recently tapped to host the May 8 episode of Saturday Night Live, initially hoped that SpaceX would be able to send people to Mars by 2024, but later revised the goal to a later date.

In December, he said he was "highly confident" that his company could land humans on Mars by 2026, according to CNBC.

"If we get lucky, maybe four years. We want to send an uncrewed vehicle there in two years," he reportedly said at an award show webcast from Berlin.

SpaceX is currently working on a vehicle called the Starship, a reusable system the company says will be "the world's most powerful launch vehicle ever developed."

Starship's fourth high-altitude flight test took place in Texas in March, though it "experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly" shortly after the landing burn started, according to SpaceX.

"Test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond," the company's website says.

NASA, meanwhile, said in July that technology development "has already begun to enable a crewed Mars mission as early as the 2030s."

The space agency, which recently landed the Perseverance rover on Mars, previously announced that it plans to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024, and that they will use that mission to learn more about how to develop a Mars mission.

The first manned SpaceX flight took place last May, and the third docked with the International Space Station with four astronauts on board after launching from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

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