Elon Musk wants to save humanity. That’s his stated mission. He doesn’t want to get rich for its own sake, he wants to get rich so that he can devote his wealth to the colonization of Mars, which in Musk’s mind is not only an enticing place to live but also an effective backup location for our species should something terrible happen on Earth. He believes we need to develop a self-sustaining, independent Martian civilization, because otherwise we are limited as a species to a single planet, and subject to a single-point failure known generically as Doomsday.

On Tuesday, at an international aerospace conference in Mexico, Musk laid out his vision for how his SpaceX company will transport people to Mars in giant spaceships launched by giant rockets. On the launchpad, the booster and spaceship would be 400 feet tall, which is taller than the Saturn V moon rockets. This is why SpaceX refers to this colonial transportation rocket as the BFR, for Big [Effing] Rocket. Each spaceship will carry 100 people, or perhaps 200, Musk said. In a matter of decades, there will be 10,000 such rockets blasting off Earth every two years as Earth and Mars align in their orbits, he said.

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