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Mining robots key to colonizing Mars — Elon Musk

The Mars Society prototype habitat in Utah conducts studies on what it would be like to live on Mars. (Image courtesy of Mars Society MRDS)

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk, who last month revealed details of his ambitious plans to get at least a million people to Mars, said mining robots will be a key part of the planned colonization of the red planet.

In reply to several inquiries during a question-and-answer “AMA” session on Reddit on Sunday, the tech billionaire — who also heads electric-vehicle specialist Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) — highlighted the vital role mining equipment is set to play when it comes to help people establish their homes in Mars.

Musk envisions geodesic domes on the surface that would have additional areas digged out below the surface by mining robots.

He said he envisions geodesic domes on the surface made with glass panes supported by carbon fibre frames. Such structures would have additional areas mined out below the surface by robots for “industrial” uses.

“Initially, glass panes with carbon fibre frames to build geodesic domes on the surface, plus a lot of miner/tunnelling droids,” Musk wrote. “With the latter, you can build out a huge amount of pressurized space for industrial operations and leave the glass domes for green living space.”

Concerning transporting those heavy machines as well as materials and people, Musk said that the first crewed mission would have about a dozen people, who will be tasked with building out and troubleshooting the propellant plant and Mars Base Alpha power system once it lands.

He also said it would be a year or two before the company releases mock-ups of habitation environments.

Mining robots key to colonizing Mars — Elon Musk

Arriving in Mars. (Image: SpaceX via YouTube.)

The tech mogul has previously said it would take 40 to 100 years to achieve a self-sustaining civilization in Mars.

Musk’s wildly ambitious plan, one that could transform the future of humanity, (quite obviously) won’t come cheap. He estimates it would cost $10 billion per person if he were to send just 12 people, Recode reported last month. That is why his company is focusing on scale: If 1 million people sign up, it will — Musk claims — cost just $200,000 a pop.

SpaceX is not the only company planning to build a human settlement in the red planet. Mars One, a Dutch non-profit agency, launched in 2014 a campaign to recruit 24 volunteers to be trained and send up there by 2025.

This video explains a bit more Musk’s and SpaceX’s Martian ambitions: