Being the explorer can have quite some advantages. However, it comes with its fair share of risks as well. Elon Musk outlined some of them as he talked about the next, ultimate stage of exploration that the human race will soon embark upon. According to him, the first humans to Mars, should be prepared to die.
Certainly not a very pleasant prospect, no matter how adventurous your spirit. However, I suppose being one of the first humans on the red planet, isn’t going to be too easy.
Answering questions about “Who would be the ideal candidate?” from someone among the audience, Musk said,
Are you prepared to die? If that’s okay, then you’re a candidate for going.
And yes, considering that the journey will take almost 80 days and that the first humans will find very little support in way of infrastructure, — indeed, they are going to create that very support — the fatality rate for the first explorers may just be pretty high. However, that wasn’t really a stream of thought that he wanted his audience to dwell on for too long.
This is less about who goes there first… the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible. This is different than Apollo. This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure.
And Musk does not think that the fact that you could potentially die on the trip, will keep many from signing up. I mean come on, you are going to the Mars! So what if you die in the process, right? Well, to be honest death and danger has never kept the human race from venturing into the unknown and now, when its time to explore the deep spaces, there will likely be plenty of volunteers.
It would be an incredible adventure. I think it would be the most inspiring thing that I can possibly imagine. Life needs to be more than just solving problems every day. You need to wake up and be excited about the future, and be inspired, and want to live.
There are probably going to be a whole lot of other tests and evaluations before the people going to Mars are actually selected. However, the “being prepared to die” may remain a constant across the first few trips.