Self Expression Magazine

An Open Letter To Elon Musk

Posted on the 09 August 2015 by Jhouser123 @jhouser123

Dear Mr. Musk:

(You are a busy man, so if you would like to get to the point of this letter, feel free to skip to the fifth paragraph.)

It has been said that you are the real life Tony Stark, and with billions of dollars pouring into space exploration and technology, it certainly seems like SpaceX has an extremely bright future filled with very lofty goals. You are an inventor, an entrepreneur, and a driving force in more than a few industries (including the massive disruption that Tesla has caused in the automotive industry and the infrastructure and consumer power sector).  It seems that anything that comes from a company run by Mr. Elon Musk is just far enough ahead of its time to be considered a technological wonder, but not too far to be dismissed by the masses as science fiction.  In short, your have hit the sweet spot of the public’s imagination.  But what is next?

You keep talking about Mars: you say that it is the next step in human evolution to become a multi-planetary species.  Not so long ago this would have been an insane thing to say.  After all, it was only 45 years ago that we landed on the moon, and it wasn’t exactly a smooth process.  Back then, there was a president calling for America to “go to the moon in this decade and do the other things“, NASA funding has never made up a larger portion of the national budget since the years leading up to and immediately after the lunar missions.  That was a time when NASA’s space agenda was the only space agenda for the nation, but now things are changing and the private sector (specifically you, Mr. Musk), is taking over space exploration.

This shift means that your Mars One mission is going to be the next race for the moon, and it is going to have as profound of an effect on this generation as the moon landings did in their time.  The significance of seeing a human being setting foot on our moon has resonated through time as by far one of the greatest accomplishments in human history.  But what if there was a way to make the Mars missions even more profound.  What if we could use Mars as the fuel to inspire millions of young people in this country and around the world.  What if we could turn the quest for mars into a way to bring incredibly bright young minds to the forefront and to give them a chance to participate first hand in the next great phase of human exploration.

You cite a number of books as your inspiration for what you do, and arguably your biography by Ashlee Vance has begun inspiring the next renditions of your adventurous spirit and seemingly limitless imagination.  But instead of passively engaging people like me, how about we work together to start actively engaging them.  My goal in life is to identify and incubate students who could become great scientists.  I want to channel the energy that comes from these students into something that is much bigger than themselves, and a mission to Mars is a perfect way to do that.

I propose a challenge.  We ask groups of students from around the country to tackle one of the many aspects of a successful Mars colony: life support, transportation, experimentation, resupply logistics, all things that will need to work essentially flawlessly for humans to even dream of existing on Mars for any period of time.  The amazing thing is that there is probably a group of students sitting in an apartment just off their college campus at 2 AM dreaming up a more efficient method for recycling urine for drinking water, or developing a system for large-scale plant growth systems optimized for the planetary surface of Mars.  These people are out there, we just need to find them, tap into that knowledge, and give them an outlet to create something absolutely extraordinary  that could one day actually go to another planet.  

The beautiful thing about this is that the return on investment is instantaneous, long-lasting, and could have a potentially disruptive effect on the future of life on earth as we know it.  If we get students to start investing their time and energy into sustaining life on Mars, then they will inevitably start thinking about sustaining life on Earth, too.  (They may, incidentally, buy an electric car or power their homes with solar panels, so the financial ROI doesn’t look bad for you in the long run.)

If the Mars One mission is a success on its own, the public will be in awe, there is no question about that.  Will young scientists feel inspired by the story?  Absolutely.  Will actively engaging these young men and women in the process do something even more significant?  Without a doubt.  We live in an incredible time, and we have the opportunity right now to profoundly affect young people, not through the stories they read and the videos they watch after the fact, but by the hands-on participation in the process of bringing human life to another planet in our solar system.  If you have anything to say about it, the next generation is going to eat, sleep and breathe Mars, so let’s make it their day job, their hobby, their obsession, and their dream to actually get there.

So, Mr. Musk, let’s see what kind of incredible work we can do together.

-Jeremy Houser

My inboxes are ready and waiting.

jeremy@jeremyhouser.com

houser@vortechbio.org

houser@joinjhaas.org


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