Astrophysicist and host of StarTalk Radio Neil deGrasse Tyson is not optimistic that Elon Musk's for-profit space tourism company SpaceX will be the first to ferry human beings to the planet Mars. In an interview with Business Insider, the scientist said that new space exploration missions are too dangerous for private sector enterprises.
"Private enterprise will never lead a space frontier," he said. "Not because I don't want them to, but because my read of history says they can't. It's not possible. Space is dangerous. It's expensive. There are unquantified risks," Tyson told BI. "Combine all of those under one umbrella; you cannot establish a free market capitalization of that enterprise."
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk started the company out of frustration with the slow, bureaucratic functioning of national space agencies like NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. Hoping to forge a faster, profit-driven, more efficient path to the stars, Musk -- who is also CEO of electric car company Tesla Motors -- founded SpaceX.
So far, SpaceX has sent a capsule to the International Space Station three times and launched a German satellite network, but Tyson believes that these missions pale next to the complexity and risk of a full-scale Mars mission.
He pointed out that the first Europeans to reach the New World were not the Dutch East India Trading Company. "It was governments funding government missions," he explained.
"Columbus drew the maps, established where the trade winds were," he said. "Where are the hostiles? Where are the friendlies? Is there food there? Can you breathe the air? They come back with this information. Then, you can establish a capital market valuation."
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