In a new interview with Aeon magazine, Elon Musk argues that we should put a million people on Mars if we want to "safeguard the existence of humanity" into the future.
As the CEO and CTO of SpaceX (in addition to being the CEO of Tesla), Musk has high hopes for colonizing Mars. Musk owns two-thirds of SpaceX, a company that makes rockets at a Los Angeles factory and sells rides on its vessels. In September, NASA announced that SpaceX, together with Boeing, will be the first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
But Musk's reasons for sending people to space aren't just for exploration purposes: According to Aeon's Ross Andersen, Musk believes that "going to Mars is as urgent and crucial as lifting billions out of poverty, or eradicating deadly disease." Here's a snippet from Musk's statements to Andersen:
I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct. It would be like, 'Good news, the problems of poverty and disease have been solved, but the bad news is there aren't any humans left.' ...
It's funny. Not everyone loves humanity. Either explicitly or implicitly, some people seem to think that humans are a blight on the Earth's surface. They say things like, 'Nature is so wonderful; things are always better in the countryside where there are no people around.' They imply that humanity and civilization are less good than their absence. But I'm not in that school. I think we have a duty to maintain the light of consciousness, to make sure it continues into the future. [Aeon]
Andersen adds that Musk often thinks about "the mysterious absence of intelligent life in the observable Universe." If anyone can find that intelligent life, it may just be him. Read the full interview with Musk over at Aeon.