WaPo | In 2002, SpaceX basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band. That was it. That's all of SpaceX in 2002. As you can see, I'm a dancing machine. And, yeah, I believe in kicking off celebratory events with mariachi bands. I really like mariachi bands.
“But that was what we started off with in 2002. And really, I mean, I thought we had maybe a 10 percent chance of doing anything, of even getting a rocket to orbit, let alone getting beyond that and taking Mars seriously. But I came to the conclusion if there wasn't some new entrant into the space arena with a strong ideological motivation, then it didn't seem like we were on a trajectory to ever be a space-faring civilization and be out there among the stars. Because, you know, in '69 we were able to go to the moon and the space shuttle could get to low-Earth orbit, and then after the space shuttle got retired.”
On how the first people going to Mars might die:
“Well, I think the first journey to Mars is going to be really very dangerous. The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it. So I would not suggest sending children. It would be basically are you prepared to die, then if that's okay, then, you know, you're a candidate for going.
“But really this is -- this is less about, like, you know, who goes there first or -- it's -- the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible.”
On how what SpaceX is doing is a lot like the early days of the United States railroad system:
“The goal of SpaceX is really to build the transport system. It's like building the Union Pacific Railroad. And once -- once that transport system is built, then there's a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new or build the foundations of a new planet. So it's like who wants to sort of be, you know, among the founding members of a new planet and, like I said, build everything from iron refineries to the first pizza joint. You know, we will want them all.
“And then things on Mars that people can't even imagine today that might be unique or would be unique to Mars. And -- but that's really where a tremendous amount of entrepreneurship and talent would flourish. Just as happened in California when the Union Pacific Railroad was completed. And when they were building the Union Pacific, a lot of people said, ‘Well, that's a super-dumb idea because there's no -- you know, hardly anybody lives in California.’ But now, I mean, today, [it's] the U.S. epicenter of technology development and entertainment. And it's the biggest state in the nation. But you need that transport link. If you can't get there, then none of those opportunities exist. Our goal is just to make sure you can get there.”
On why the return trip to Earth will be free:
“I think it's pretty important to give people the option of returning. The number of people who would be willing to move to Mars is much greater if they know that they have the option of returning, even if they never actually return. I mean, most of the people that went to the original English colonies in North America, they never returned to Europe, even once.
“But some did. And just knowing that if you don't like it there, that you can come back, I think makes a big difference in people's willingness to go there in the first place.
“In any case, we need the spaceship back. So it's coming. You can jump onboard or not. It's cool. You get a free return trip, if you want.”