Elon Musk on making life multi-planetary

The journal Nature spoke to SpaceX founder Elon Musk about the privatization of space flight. On April 30, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station, making it the first commercial company to send a craft to the ISS. From Nature:

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Do you see a space-faring civilization as a way of defending humanity against a catastrophe on Earth? Absolutely. We would be backing up the biosphere. We wouldn't just be preserving humanity, we would be preserving much of life. It is certainly possible for some calamity to come along — as we see in the several major extinction events in the fossil record. Humanity has obviously developed the means of destroying itself, so I think we need planetary redundancy to protect against the unlikely possibility of natural or man-made Armageddon.

It is important that we take action now to make life multi-planetary, because this is really the first point in the 4-billion-year history of Earth that it has been possible. That window of possibility will hopefully be open for a long time, but it may only be open for a short time. That's why I think urgent action is required on making life multi-planetary.

"Backing up the biosphere"


  1. It’s wonderful to me that I’d read this at a time when I’m currently rereading Rendezvous With Rama, which includes a detail about efforts to get Earth’s population under one billion.

    What always catches my attention, though, is the possibility of living on Triton. Oh, if only I could…

  2. If anyone’s interested, Elon Musk is going to be the guest on The Daily Show tonight.

  3. Some of the more believable sci-fi has already covered terra-forming, which would have to include all manner of flora & fauna, as well as either deliberately or not entirely, microbial involvement too. What would possibly be “wrong” with trying to preserve/conserve as many other earth-evolved DNA systems, besides just humans, as possible?

    The sooner the better people, the sooner the better.

  4. Nice idea if there were another planet with a decent atmosphere and magnetic field. Those two things shelter us from high speed rocks and radiation. Soon as you get into outer space you’re just an egg on the frying pan.

      1. In all seriousness, though, those caves they’ve been finding “skylights” into on Mars might be just the ticket.  Seal off a few nice-sized caverns, cap the openings with a transparent dome, pressurize it, fill the space below with plants growing in Martian sand mixed with composted food scraps and human waste, maybe spray the walls with some kind of sealant to stop atmospheric loss, and have at it.  Lots of solar energy, shielding from the rocks and radiation.  Heck – I’d live there.

    1.  Planets? Where we’re going, we don’t need no stinkin’ planets!
      No, really. Read “The High Frontier” by Gerald K. O’Niell. A planetary surface isn’t necessarily the best place for an industrial civilization.

  5. I think the idea that humankind needs to move into space to survive as a species to be so damned stupid that it’s laughable.

    How about we stop destroying this planet, and keep it a nice place to live.  Limit population growth (by force if necessary), stop raping the environment.  Move back to a community model of food supply. 

    There is so many legitimate things to be spending money on for our future.  Trying to live in space is not one of them.

    1. Obligatory XKCD:

      “The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space–each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.” 

      1.  They’re a great find really. All that raw material that was dug up and assembled on the surface in the form of habitats and they even place all the rare materials in solid structures to protect them from decay.

        If you’re lucky you can even scrape up some fissible material that has yet to pass it’s half life… assuming that wasn’t used up to remove the natives to begin with.

      2. Hardly. The extra-planetary society would just be a greater drain on the Earth’s resources. It’s only benefit would be the entertainment it provides as its utopian society of true believers falls apart.

    2. I think that the idea that gravity attracts to be so damned stupid that it’s laughable.
      I think that the idea that all men are created equal to be so damned stupid that it’s laughable.
      Brain assplode.

    1. I think it will be more like Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Large corporations will send people to develop Mars and other planetary bodies, but a significant percentage will declare independence once they’ve established themselves.  You’ll be hard pressed to blame them, as the contractual terms will be horrible, given that the terms will create an environment of “taxation without representation”.

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