Neil deGrasse Tyson: I’ll go to Mars after Elon Musk sends his mom

He’s an astrophysicist and cosmologist who has studied and worked at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, written multiple books and won several honors, but Neil deGrasse Tyson has no interest in traveling to Mars – at least, not unless specific conditions are met.

As the Washington Post explained, Tyson was answering questions from fans in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session on Sunday when someone inquired what he thought about SpaceX’s recent success, and whether or not he would ever be willing to take a one-way trip to Mars.

Tyson responded with his trademark humor. “I really like Earth. So any space trip I take, I’m double-checking that there’s sufficient funds for me to return,” he wrote. “Also, I’m not taking that trip until Elon Musk (sends) his mother and brings her back alive. Then I’m good for it.”

Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time that the mother of the SpaceX founder and CEO has been mentioned in regards to possible voyage to the Red Planet, nor is it, as Mashable noted, the first time that 68-year-old Maye Musk has been in the spotlight. After all, the website said, for more than 50 years she has worked as a model, and she even once appeared in a Beyonce video.

Last year, Maye told Mashable that she had no intention of going to Mars, saying that “they need the younger people there like engineers to create a future. They don’t need me.” Not surprising in light of the fact that not even her son plans to make the journey, the website said, mostly to make certain that SpaceX’s work is able to continue.

Tyson remains doubtful a private company will reach Mars first

Tyson’s Q&A session came just days after SpaceX successfully reused a Falcon 9 rocket to send a communications satellite into orbit, marking the first time that one of the company’s first-stage boosters returned to action after previously launching and landing on a floating platform.

While the astrophysicist addressed the topic of traveling to Mars with levity, he did have praise for Musk’s work. “Any demonstration of rocket reusability is a good thing,” he wrote on Reddit. “When we fly on a Boeing 747 across great distances, we don’t throw it away and roll out a new one. Reusability is arguably the most fundamental feature of affordable expensive things.”

Tyson also called himself “simultaneously one of SpaceX’s biggest critics and supporters” and reiterated his long-held position that, in his opinion, a private company would not send the first manned mission to Mars – not unless they were funded by the government, anyway.

“I’ve said many times and many places… that projects that are hugely expensive and dangerous, with uncertain returns on investments, make poor activities of profit-driven companies,” he said. “Governments do these things first, allowing private enterprise to learn what to do and what not to do, then come next with a plan that involves us all.”

Despite Tyson’s misgivings, Musk and SpaceX revealed last year that they are hoping to start sending humans to Mars by as early as 2022 – three years earlier than their initial projections had deemed possible. To do so, he plans to use a reusable booster that is much larger than the current Falcon 9 and a 100 passenger capacity capsule roughly the size of two Boeing 747s.


Image credit: Patrick Eccelsine/Fox