Donald Trump, Elon Musk
Elon Musk sees an unlikely competitor in the space race to Mars. | Source: AP/AFP; Edited by CCN

By CCN: Elon Musk’s space ambitions are no secret. The eccentric boss of Tesla and Space X aims to land a spacecraft on the moon and begin setting up a Mars colony within the next decade. But he faces tough competition… from the president of the United States.

Donald Trump doubled down on his own space vision this weekend during a state visit to Japan. Speaking at a press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, he said:

“We’ll be going to the moon. We’ll be going to Mars very soon. From a military standpoint, there’s nothing more important right now than space.”

Trump: “we’ll be going to Mars”

Trump first hinted at his space plans in late 2018, but his concept for a “Space Force” is beginning to take shape. He said on Monday that Japan will co-operate on the US plan to send astronauts back to the moon and ultimately Mars.

“Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed to dramatically expand our nations’ co-operation in human space exploration. Japan will join our mission to send US astronauts to space.”

A United States spacecraft has not landed on the moon since 1972.

Elon Musk: 70% chance he’ll go to Mars himself

Elon Musk’s space program is already well underway through his work at Space X. This week, the Space X Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit.

Musk is expected to begin the first tests on the Mars-bound spacecraft in 2019. By 2050, Space X hopes to have established a city on Mars, over a series of ten space flights. Musk said there’s a 70 percent chance he’ll go to Mars himself, but it won’t be easy.

“It’s going to be hard. There’s a good chance of death, going in a little can through deep space. You might land successfully. Once you land, you’ll be working non-stop to build the base… Once you get there, even after doing all this, it’s a very harsh environment so there’s a good chance you die there. We think you can come back but we’re not sure.”

Donald Trump’s military space force

Although Trump and Musk both have grand plans for space, their motives are very different. Trump’s mission is all about national security.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space” – President Donald Trump.

In February, he ordered the Pentagon to create a new branch of the military called Space Force. It could be key to establishing dominance in a time when countries like India are launching space weapons. Explaining the Space Force’s potential role, a US Air Force spokesperson said:

“If enacted, it will be our responsibility to deter and defeat threats in space through the U.S. Space Force, which will organize, train, and equip military space forces.”

Musk vs Trump vs Bezos

Let’s not forget that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is also part of this space race. As CCN reported, Musk and Bezos regularly clash on Twitter over their space plans.

The more likely outcome in this whole scenario is that the White House taps Space X or Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for help. Instead of Musk vs Trump, we might see an almighty collaboration.

The new age space race has only just begun.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

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