Elon Musk‘s plans to head on over to Mars are, even from an everyman’s perspective, pretty damn ambitious. According to the SpaceX website, a manned mission to the red planet is targeted for as early as 2024.

It’s pretty awesome to think that in just 7 years, actual human beings could travel further than we’ve ever been before. The hype is incredibly easy to get caught up in, but others are remaining skeptical of the entrepreneur’s wild goals.

One such skeptic is renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, who told PEDESTRIAN.TV that Musk’s plans for the Mars mission were not realistic. While Krauss says he knows Elon and has great respect for him”, he thinks the costs and dangers of the plans are underestimated. 

“What happens is, governments lead the way and then once we know how to do things, industry can generally improve upon it and do it cheaper and we’ll see that,” he said. “I think the future of near-Earth exploration will be industry, but it gets so much more expensive and so much more dangerous.”

I think Elon is underestimating both of those, even though he’s very ambitious and he’s able to do things that they didn’t think would be possible.”

But it’s the danger factor that Krauss is more concerned with, particularly when it comes to the idea of space tourism in a world where people love to sue the shit out of each other, which, for obvious reasons, isn’t very good for business.

If you look at the statistics, two percent of the people that go into space are gonna die,” he explained. “And that’s OK if they’re astronauts, but if you start sending civilians in a litigious society, the minute you kill them all, from the perspective of business modelling, it’s gonna be pretty hard.” 

That doesn’t mean Elon shouldn’t try, but he certainly needs to be careful about it. To be fair, he did say in a recent interview that those willing to go on early missions to Mars should be prepared to die, either en route or on the planet itself.

As Krauss told me, the human body is not very good at existing outside of our very specialised environment.

“We evolved on earth because of the conditions on Earth,” he said. “We’re 200-pound bags of water, we’re not well-designed for space.”

“Of course it’s romantic maybe to think of an astronaut on Mars, but as I often like to say, you could send a rover to Mars for the cost of making a movie about sending Bruce Willis to Mars.”

Lawrence Krauss Just Shat All Over Elon Musk’s Vision Of Life On Mars

We’ll get there at some point, it might just take a little longer than Elon would like. In the meantime, Krauss reckons we should continue to send machines in our stead.

“If we try to really think about going into space and going beyond our local environment… the realistic ways to do it will be to send machines.”

Krauss will be out here with evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, next year in May. If you’re interested in some mind-bending science, I highly recommend you go check them out. Tickets and details available here.

Image: Getty Images / Mark Brake