Elon Musk and SpaceX have been making great strides in the race to Mars, including several tests of a prototype of its Starship rocket. While there is no time-frame for when humans get to the Red Planet, and it could conceivably still be decades away, Mr Musk is still confident his firm will succeed. But he also believes the first people to get there may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The first people there will be tasked with building an initial base on Mars making it possible for more humans to come further down the line.
But Mr Musk said with great risk comes great reward, describing a potential home on Mars as being a “glorious” proposition.
The SpaceX chief said: “Getting to Mars, I think, is not the fundamental issue.
“The fundamental issue is building a base, building a city on Mars that is self-sustaining.
“We’re going to build a propellant plant, an initial Mars base – Mars Base Alpha – and then get it to the point where it’s self-sustaining.
“I want to emphasise that this is a very hard and dangerous, difficult thing, not for the faint of heart.
“Good chance you’ll die, it’s going to be tough going, but it will be pretty glorious if it works out.”
Living on Mars is not the only problem astronauts face, but also the journey there.
NASA has classically relied on radio waves to communicate with its machines throughout the solar system, but these waves take an average of 13 minutes to travel what can be up to 271 million mile journey to the Red Planet – depending on where Earth and Mars are in their respective orbits.
This could prove to be too long if hypothetically astronauts on Mars are in the midst of an emergency.
Lasers, however, provide almost instantaneous communication and also allow for much larger data sets to be transferred.
The project is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and the space agency described the satellite, called DSS-23, as “critical” for future Mars missions.
NASA said: “While DSS-23 will function as a radio antenna, it will also be equipped with mirrors and a special receiver for lasers beamed from distant spacecraft.
“This technology is critical for sending astronauts to places like Mars.
“Humans there will need to communicate with Earth more than NASA’s robotic explorers do, and a Mars base, with its life support systems and equipment, would buzz with data that needs to be monitored.”