Mars Settlement Likely by 2050, But Not at Musk’s Predicted Levels


Mars will likely be colonized by humans by 2050, but not on the scale predicted by Elon Musk, according to Professor Serkan Saydam from UNSW Sydney.

Professor Saydam emphasizes that robotic mining to provide water and fuel is crucial for developing a colony on Mars within the next 30 years.

Key to Colonization: Water

Professor Saydam, from the School of Mineral Energy Resources Engineering, highlights that finding and processing water on Mars using robots is essential before humans can settle there.

Water is vital not only for life support but also for extracting hydrogen to use as an energy source.

“The process for having humans on Mars will be to set up operations, produce water with robots first, and extract hydrogen to make the energy ready before people arrive,” says Professor Saydam.

Technological and Research Efforts

While the technology and knowledge exist, there is still significant research needed to make autonomous mining on Mars commercially viable.

Efforts are underway at UNSW’s Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER), but there is no consensus yet on the best methods.

Elon Musk’s Ambitious Plans

Elon Musk envisions a city of 1 million people on Mars by 2050, transported by 1,000 Starships with up to three launches per day.

However, Professor Saydam believes this timeline is unrealistic but acknowledges that such ambitious plans help drive technological advancements.

The Role of Market Demand

For companies to invest in Mars missions, there needs to be a market demand.

Currently, there is no revenue for companies involved in Mars exploration, making it a costly endeavor.

However, initiatives like United Launch Alliance’s offer to pay $500 per kilogram for fuel from the moon create a market that could incentivize further development.

Steps Towards Mars

Professor Saydam predicts that before colonizing Mars, humans will first establish settlements on the moon.

The moon could serve as a refueling station for missions to Mars and beyond.

“I believe a colony on Mars will happen between 2040 and 2050, depending on technological advances and stronger motivation.

Before 2050, we will likely have settlements on both the moon and Mars,” concludes Professor Saydam.


While Elon Musk’s vision of a million-strong Martian city by 2050 may be overly ambitious, experts believe that significant steps towards colonization will be made within the next 30 years, with robotic mining and technological advancements paving the way.