Building a city on Mars could cost an eighth of the global economy: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk

If followed through, Musk's dream of a permanent Mars settlement could be the most expensive construction project ever undertaken.

Nobody doubted that building a civilisation on Mars would be a costly affair. Elon Musk put an estimate to the long-term dream for SpaceX. As it stands, Musk's dream of a permanent human settlement on Mars could be the single most-expensive construction undertaken — costing $10 trillion, one-eighth the cost of the global economy, according to a tweet from Musk.

SpaceX has yet to send a spacecraft to another celestial body. Musk has led the development of SpaceX's Starship spacecraft — a rocket designed to refuel and relaunch using hydrogen and methane as fuel unlike the rocket propellant needed by the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Astronauts could, therefore, refuel at depots spread across the solar system with the planned Starship fleet and infrastructure to support it.

The Starship, a scaled prototype of which has been coined "Starhopper," is under development, and could see its first commercial launch in 2021.

Starhopper — designed as a future Earth-to-Mars shuttle — is slated to fly a group of civilians to the Moon's orbit and back in two years. Among the civilians on the test flight is Japanese businessman and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.

Evidently, there's plenty to do before the first manned spacecraft touches down on Mars. But Musk envisions a self-sustaining city on the Red Planet as early as 2050!

Previously, Musk has suggested that SpaceX could offer return tickets to Mars at $200,000 (Rs 1.42 crore) — less than it would cost to buy a Range Rover in India or a one-bedroom apartment in Mumbai.

I see it already: Sell your house, move to Mars! 

If all goes to plan, the enormous rocket could ferry 100 tons of payload to Mars. That will, of course, hinge on SpaceX figuring out how to refuel the rocket in Earth orbit first.

But to build a city, at least a million tons of cargo will need to be ferried from Earth, as Musk previously explained in a CBS interview in July 2019. This estimate is what Musk used to roughly quote the cost of building such a mission.

Musk clarified that the figures were rounded off to the nearest order of magnitude, pegging the ultimate price of establishing this city at somewhere between $100 billion and $10 trillion.

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