Elon Musk talks colonizing Mars at SXSW: Pizza joints, night clubs, and democracy rule

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Feb 21, 2019, 3:00 PM EST (Updated)

If Elon Musk’s hyper-ambitious vision for Mars is going to become a real thing, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Bumpin’ night clubs, addictive pizza, laws that everyone understands, and power to the people…we can’t tell if it sounds like utopia or a bizarro episode of Futurama

Either way, it’s time to get moving, if Musk’s goal of starting Mars trips by next year is really gonna be a thing. At a surprise two-day SXSW appearance in support of his friend Jonathan Nolan’s work on Westworld, Musk fielded tons of questions from festival fans curious about everything from his aggressive SpaceX schedule, to his hopes for a near-term Martian colony, to how closely it all might mimic the social order of its parent planet. 

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Musk drew a mob of fans for a Q&A session following his surprise appearance a day earlier at the end of Nolan’s Westworld panel, which he commemorated on Instagram by doing his best Yul Brenner impression alongside his brother, Kimbal.

For the Q&A, Musk laid out his Mars plan: make it tasty, make it happenin’, and put the people in charge.

First of all, there’ve gotta be some fun places for colonists to hang out after their shift ends down at the metal plant. “Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to night clubs. Mars should really have great bars,” he joked. 

An even though he’s been the target of plenty of jokes about becoming a political figurehead for the known universe’s first extraplanetary government, Musk said it’s really all about handing power over to the people. The idea is to make civics accessible, keep the laws simple, and step back and watch direct democracy flourish. “If the size of a law exceeds the length of Lord of the Rings, something's wrong,” he very sensibly explained.

The whole thing was super-breezy, with Musk and Kimbal recapturing the tone set during their first day’s appearance by hilariously stumbling through a music-free version of “My Little Buttercup” from Three Amigos

But when the discussion turned to how last month’s Falcon Heavy launch sets SpaceX up to reach Musk’s goal of turning Martian travel into a routine thing, Musk reiterated the starry-eyed vision he hopes humanity always will hold for pushing beyond the limit of the familiar. It’s really more about inspiration; about making people “believe again,” he said — and tweeted.