Ask Space X CEO Elon Musk why he builds rockets, and he'll tell you that the idea all along has been to get to Mars.
Ask him why it's important to go to Mars, and his answer starts in the primordial soup and ends with the declaration that "it's all about making life multiplanetary," as an insurance policy for humanity among other reasons.
Ask him if he will be making the trip himself, perhaps along with his five kids—tickets, he suggested when pressed, could be on offer 25-30 years from now—Musk said:
"I think it would be cool to be born on Earth and die on Mars. Hopefully not at the point of impact."
You might think it's brave, verging on dumb for a space entrepreneur to make jokes about crash landing on Mars. But last night at a dinner in Washington, D.C., hosted by FutureTense, Musk was actually on good behavior. (Sometimes he is a bit testy.) He smiled and said nice things about NASA—currently his biggest (though not only) client, with about $2 billion in contracts—nice things about Washingtonians, and even some nice things about old-guard space-industrial complex stalwart and competitor Boeing.
For now, on the 10th anniversary of the founding of Space X, Musk is stil working on getting his reusable Dragon spacecraft bouncing reliably up and down between Earth and space. That long lead time has made him guarded in some ways, leading bold statements like these:
"Things are proceeding in a way that's not too bad."
"Success is one of the possible outcomes."
For lots more about Musk and his competitors, don't forget to check out Reason's Very Special Space issue.