Elon Musk Says Mars Travel Won't Be Just For the Rich, Details CO2 Removal Competition

While sharing his optimistic views about humanity's future, Musk also noted that "a bunch of people will probably die" during first ventures to Mars.
Fabienne Lang
Musk and DiamandisXPrize/YouTube

Discussing wide ranging topics from sustainability and communications to space travel and transport, Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis, the chairman of the XPrize Competition, shared their thoughts and hopes about the future of our planet.

The talk took place at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, April 22, and was live-streamed on YouTube for anyone keen to hear what these two men had to say. 

One of the main points of the talk was to announce the XPprize Carbon Removal Competition that has a whopping $100 million prize award. It's being called the "largest incentive prize in history." The whole point of the competition is to find innovative ways to battle climate change and rebalance Earth's carbon cycle. A topic Sir David Attenborough would be thrilled about.

Anyone from students to experts from around the planet can take part in the four-year-long competition, so long as they come up with clear and actionable solutions to pull CO2 directly out of our oceans and atmosphere and lock it away in a durable and sustainable way. 

In order to win the grand prize, the winning team or individual must have a solution that works at a scale of at least 1,000 tonnes of CO2 removed every year, model their costs at a scale of 1 million tonnes per year, and demonstrate how their solution will keep scaling up to reach gigatonnes of CO2 removed every year in the future. 

So it comes as little surprise that Elon Musk is supporting such an innovative and forward-looking venture. The Elon Musk Foundation is, in fact, sponsoring the competition. 

Elon Musk and multi planetary travel

When speaking with Diamandis, SpaceX's future travel to Mars and the Moon was brought up, with Musk mentioning that late last week, NASA awarded SpaceX $2.9 billion for the next Lunar lander, and that the next human to step foot on the Moon once again will likely be a woman.

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Musk also added a parenthesis to the conversation explaining that he's aware he may sound like a hypocrite by sponsoring a CO2-removal competition while the rockets SpaceX is producing will add more carbon to the atmosphere.

He mentioned, however, that there's no easy way of getting around the physics of a rocket, and that the company has a long-term plan of using as much renewable energy as possible for future rocket flights. He also mentioned that in order for humanity to survive, we have to become a multi-planetary species. Hence the focus on creating safe, interplanetary-traveling rockets — even if they do burn fuel.

When asked the question "Oh, is this just some escape hatch for rich people?" Musk answered that travel, and potential relocation to Mars will not exclusively be for the rich, it'll actually be more geared towards adventurers. Likening future Mars trips to the first voyage to Antarctica, Musk mentioned they'll be uncomfortable, dangerous, exciting, and without a guarantee of a return. He remarked that "a bunch of people will probably die" even. Definitely one for the adventurous spirits.