SpaceX’s Elon Musk plans to get humans to Mars by 2026, with or without NASA

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Jun 19, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT (Updated)

NASA might be in the middle of an identity crisis as the agency tries to figure out where it's going next, but SpaceX’s Elon Musk is going to Mars. With or without 'em.

The billionaire, who has previously stated he plans to die on Mars (he’s 42 at the moment, so it’s certainly possible), is on the cutting edge of the private space industry and recently unveiled the extremely cool Dragon V2 spacecraft. His engineers also have the Falcon Heavy rocket in development, which could eventually carry a ship (and living quarters) to another planet.

Though his company is still in the process of getting the V2 into orbit at the moment, Musk makes no bones about the fact that his aim is squarely pointed at Mars. Here’s an excerpt of what he told NBC News:

“I'm hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it's certainly possible for that to occur. But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multi-planetary … We need to get where things a steady and predictable. Maybe we're close to developing the Mars vehicle, or ideally we've flown it a few times, then I think going public (with the company) would make more sense.”

SpaceX has benefited from NASA’s support of private space companies via competitive grants, and it's looking to become a mutually beneficial relationship soon if SpaceX is chosen to ferry crew members to the International Space Station. But, regardless of NASA’s involvement, Musk said SpaceX would “continue on [its] own” regardless, if it doesn’t fit into the space agency’s future plans.

Considering it could be a long time until NASA has the ambition, and funding, to mount a crew-led mission to Mars, the private industry might be the one that finally gets us there. With Musk’s deep pockets ($12 billion net worth) and even deeper resolve, that could be the kick in the pants humanity needs to finally put some boots down on the Red Planet.

Do you think we could really make it to Mars within the next 12 years?

(Via NBC News)