And that’s only the beginning. “Now have another billion dollar prize for someone to make a self-sufficient greenhouse and another billion dollar prize to build some radiation-hardened living spaces, and so on.”
So for around $10bn in prizes – less than half of Nasa’s 2011 budget, and Nasa only pays if the goals are achieved – you can probably achieve the entire infrastructure needed for humans to live on Mars. Then, said Garriott, you send humans. But only one way.
“I think the people who go to Mars first ought to be settlers. To get people back off Mars is harder than getting people off of Earth, because it’s another world. Maybe we’ll start bringing people the other way in a hundred years,” he said, “but don’t worry about that.”
Well, would he go? “Absolutely. A lot of people say ‘no-one’s going to go one way’. Yeah? Well, let’s prove it. You poll any room of people and at least one will say ‘yes I’ll go!’”
If he’s right, then there are millions of people across the globe prepared to take a one-way trip to Mars to live for the rest of their lives. When Garriott breaks it all down like that, it doesn’t seem so impossible.
The X-prize has opened the way to private spaceflight and space tourism. Could a Mars X-prize kickstart humanity’s steps into the final frontier?
You can listen to the latest Space Boffins podcast featuring an interview with Richard Garriott here.