Colonizing Mars: Musk Wants a Million-Person City in 30 Years

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Meet the New Boss; Same as the Old Boss—What Colonizing Mars May Actually Look Like

Elon Musk took to the Twitterverse on Thursday night, revealing a lot of information about his plans for colonizing Mars. His grand vision: a city of a million on the Red Planet in by 2050. If that conjures up images of George Jetson, or maybe some other such Eutopian version of the future, you might do well to look at the past, instead. 

First, a Little History

History, they say, is cyclical. Of course, this is all speculation and conjecture, but if one looks at conditions in the early 20th century, it’s not hard to find certain parallels to the first part of this one. At the turn of the 20th century, a group of very powerful rich men—whom history dubbed “the robber barons”—controlled most of the wealth of the country. They also enjoyed a theretofore unprecedented level of control over the American political process. In fact, they (men such as J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller) used their money and influence to essentially buy President William McKinley’s election in 1896.

At that time, one of the biggest issues on the country’s social agenda was workers’ rights. Conditions in factories, plants, refineries, and mills were abysmal. Men, women, and children worked excessive hours under the metaphorical whip of their foremen. There were few if any regulations regarding workplace safety, worker’s rights, or working conditions. For their part, the robber barons looked on with either indifference or outright scorn. 

When workers tried to unionize or strike, the events often turned bloody. The capitalists called in private goons—otherwise known as The Pinkertons—and broke up strikes with force. 

Of course, in those days, the robber barons’ plans backfired. Theodore Roosevelt, the man they had to put on the ticket to win over moderates, became President in the wake of McKinley’s assassination shortly after his re-election. Roosevelt was famously anti-trust and likely prevented the United States from being a corporatocracy.

What Does That Have to Do With Musk?

Back in the days of the labor struggles of the early 20th century, a country singer named Tennessee Ernie Ford wrote a song called “16 Tons.” Ford’s song was a huge hit and described perfectly the plight of the worker under the early 20th-century robber barons.  “You load 16 tons, what do you get? / Another day older and deeper in debt / St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go / I owe my soul to the company store.”

That “company store” bit is where Musk comes in. Let’s think about this.

Musk builds 1000 Starships and makes them such that “…such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don’t have money.” Now, “There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!”  You decide Earth is done. All the new opportunities are a seven-month journey across the solar system away. And life on Mars is very different from life on Earth. Here there’s choice. On Earth, you can buy seventeen types of spaghetti sauce. On Mars, the SpaceX store only has two types, and they cost about as much as a steak dinner here on Earth costs.

That’s okay, though, you can borrow against your paycheck. It’s a better option than hopping the next Starship back to terra-firma. SpaceX makes sure of that.

Okay, so that’s obviously speculation and just one possible scenario for colonizing Mars, but it is a possible scenario if we’re not careful.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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