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Elon Musk wants to get to Mars before we nuke ourselves

He was also asked about Apple and said 'the last thing I need is to generate animosity.'

Elon Musk is bullish on humanity's chances getting to Mars and even building a city, but he's not super confident about our odds here on Earth. During a wide-ranging interview with GQ, the SpaceX CEO described planetary colonization as a coldly practical endeavor. "You back up your hard drive... maybe we should back up life, too?" As for how he plans to do it, he said that SpaceX will announce more concrete plans as soon as it's ready. "Before we announce it, I want to make sure that we're not gonna make really big changes ... I think it's gonna seem pretty crazy, no matter what."

Once ready, however, Musk wants to send astronauts there as soon as possible. It's not a question of technical feasibility, but rather "I don't think we can discount the possibility of a third World War," he said. "In 1912, they were proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity ... and then you had World War I followed by World War II followed by the Cold War. Perhaps there's a complacency and arrogance in assuming this won't happen again." If things went nuclear, he feels it could be "far worse than anything that's happened before," and set space technology back decades or worse. Musk famously said that he doesn't like our chances if we develop true artificial intelligence either, so he's doubly motivated to colonize Mars as quickly as possible.

However, Musk has no qualms about triggering nuclear bombs on Mars' poles in order to make it hotter and more habitable (see the video, above). Meanwhile, NASA actively prohibits potentially contaminated planetary probes from even going the red planet's water-rich zones, let alone nuking it. He deemed it unlikely that it's something we need to worry about, though. "As far as we can see now, there's not evidence of life on the surface of Mars at all -- the best case is really that there's subterranean microbial life." As a result, he has the opposite sentiment of the US space agency. "It would be, I think sort of immoral not to [colonize Mars], if it meant preservation of life on Earth as we know it."

Closer to home, Musk also elaborated on his relationship with Apple following remarks earlier this fall that Cook and company only hired Tesla's "worst engineers." After starting to say that Steve Jobs was "kind of a jerk" the only time he met him, he stopped himself and said "the last thing I need is to generate animosity, you know. It just is not helpful."

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