Musk of SpaceX: 'I'm going to Mars by 2025'
While I'd be delighted- I might well live to see our first landing on Mars, if that's the case- I have my doubts.
We have the technology to send people to Mars right now. The problem is that they would die. We have no way of shielding them from the kind and amount of radiation they would be exposed to on the trip, for one thing. In the very unlikely case that astronauts survived the trip they would die at a young age of bizarre cancers.
There are, of course, various other practical problems involved in sending people to Mars. Staying in any kind of reasonable physical and psychological shape during the months the trip would require in an isolated and weightless environment would be a daunting task. The practical difficulties involved in keeping astronauts alive and healthy during and after the trip are enormous and will take years if not decades to overcome.
Which is not to say that we shouldn't try. I have no patience for people who dismiss the idea of going to Mars because we don't have that knowledge right now. So let's get with it! Let's develop it! We have the precedent of the Apollo program, which paid for itself many times over. There are few things we could do that would provide our economy with the kind of boost a concerted effort to reach Mars by 2025 would give it. We know the Chinese are engaged in such a program even now.
All we need is to make the kind of effort John Kennedy challenged us to make in going to the Moon. The reasons are even more compelling now. I also have no patience with those who argue that we can't afford to make the effort. Again, the Apollo program paid for itself many times over; there is no reason why a project to send human beings to Mars shouldn't do the same thing.
But we're talking here about a trip to Mars undertaken by private enterprise. I think there is going to have to be a strong government component to any successful effort if the difficulties are to be overcome; apparently Musk disagrees.
In any case, here's an interview with Musk on his ambitions.