Elon Musk: 'I like Richard Branson, but technology is not his whack'

The billionaire head of SpaceX told MT we'll be on Mars in 10 years and it could one day be home to thousands of people.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 21 Jan 2015

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of spacecraft-maker SpaceX, said the pace of change in space exploration has been ‘probably negative’ so far, but that things are going to progress ‘pretty quickly’ in the next decade.

‘We’ll be doing test flights on our spacecraft the Dragon 2 later this year,’ he told Management Today. ‘We'll be going to Mars within 10 or 11 years. We’re going to build a big spaceship which can carry people. I'd go certainly myself at some point, although I’m not sure how wise it would be for the CEO to be the test pilot.’

Elon Musk, the South African-born business tycoon who co-founded of PayPal, started SpaceX in 2002. The California-based company designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. In 2012, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle to successfully attach to the International Space Station and return cargo to Earth.

When asked to visualise the future of Mars, Musk said cities could be established which would be home to thousands of people.   ‘The initial cost of building a base on Mars and establishing the essential infrastructure is high, probably several billions of dollars. And then once you have that essential infrastructure, the point at which someone could sell their house on earth, move to Mars, get a job and be ok, then I think it becomes a self sustaining business. It's very analogous to the establishment of the English colonies in America, which used to be called a new world.’

UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of space exploration company Virgin Galactic, told MT last month that he had visions of building hotels on the moon. Asked whether he was thinking bigger than Branson, Musk said: ‘He did name his firm Virgin Galactic. That's pretty big. It's a bit like your name is giant and you‘re actually quite small. I like Richard and I think he’s doing some cool things. But technology is not really his whack you know. But once the technology's developed in terms of operating it in a way that people really like, I think he’s quite good at that.’

Musk was speaking at the launch of the Model S for Tesla Motors, the electric carmaker he also runs alongside SpaceX.

The Tesla Model S, the new electric sports car which arrived in the UK at the weekend, costs around £50,000 and can travel 300 miles on a single charge.

The Tesla Model S costs around £50,000.

Musk said it is ‘probable’ that Tesla will establish an R&D centre in the UK next year to get easier access to ‘top European talent.’ Tesla is currently experimenting with self-driving cars and cheaper electric car models aimed at the mass market.

‘The world really needs to move to sustainable transport, but at the current pace we’re not even close,’ Musk said. ‘Ninety million new vehicles are made a year and only a few hundred thousand of those are electric. At Tesla we're only going to do 35,000 cars this year.’

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