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Elon Musk doesn’t just want to populate Mars with rich people

Elon Musk has insisted that Mars won’t just be home to the super-rich when it’s eventually colonised.

The SpaceX CEO wants to establish a “self-sustaining base” of one million people on the red planet, in the hope that they’ll one day return to re-populate earth after nuclear war wipes out the human race.

“We want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages,” he said at SXSW in Texas this week.

Related: Elon Musk’s 5 craziest tech ideas for the future

However, he says his vision of Mars has never been as an “escape hatch for rich people”.

“It wasn’t that at all,” he said. “For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”

He hasn’t yet explained how he would enable those lucky humans to survive on Mars for so long, but he expects “an explosion of entrepreneurial opportunities” when they are eventually flown across space.

“Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs,” he added. “Mars should definitely have great bars. The Mars Bar.”

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