Elon Musk’s Mars colony plan is ‘dangerous illusion’, says Astronomer Royal

In 2016, Musk announced plans to build a settlement on Mars and said that he hoped to make humans a multiplanetary species.

The long-term goal of his company SpaceX has been to design rockets and spacecraft that can land and take-off from the surface of other planets.

The company recently carried out a successful orbital insertion of Starship, the vessel that will take humans back to the Moon and beyond.

At the latest launch, SpaceX said that in the future, Starship would make many journeys taking materials and equipment to Mars to start a city.

Musk has said that he believes Mars could be a “back-up drive” for humanity in the event of catastrophic global warming, an asteroid strike or a nuclear winter, and believes that the planet could be warmed by nuclear weapons.

Lord Rees said: “He has done a much better job than the big conglomerates that used to work for Nasa in producing efficient rockets, which can be reused, and that will make it cheaper to actually send stuff into space and more feasible to have some engineering done in space and even solar energy gathered from space.

“My line on human space flight is that it should not be funded publicly, certainly not by government agencies because they’ve got to be very safety conscious and that makes it very expensive.

“Robots can do all the practical things, assembling big structures in space and exploring the surface of Mars and all that. If humans want to fly into space as an adventure, then perhaps they can be supported by sponsorship or the billionaires.

“We know that Messrs Musk and Bezos are spending billions on space exploration and they could perhaps launch the kind of people, adventurers prepared to accept a very high risk and therefore be launched much more cheaply.

“So my line is that robots should do all the practical things and only people who really have a high appetite for risk should be going into space, and they should be privately funded, not by the rest of us.”

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