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It’s true that Las Vegas will bet on almost anything — and this incredible breakdown on the odds of who will land a manned mission on Mars first is a must-read.

Popular Mechanics asked Raphael Esparza of to put odds on who will be first to put people on the Red Planet. And let’s just say that if he’s right, SpaceX’s Elon Musk will have a lot more to smile about.

Esparza gave SpaceX the edge, with 5:1 odds, that the company would do it first, stating simply that “they have the desire and the funds”:

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

“Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, and he’s built a company with the experience to do it,” states the PM summary of Esparza’s pick. “The contracts with NASA for supply runs are old news.

“SpaceX has moved on to experiments with recoverable rockets and GPS-guided landing platforms. Musk has already announced his intention to reveal the company’s Mars Colonial Transporter before the end of the year. He says they have a spacesuit in the works too.”

But what about NASA?

Esparza put the odds of NASA landing a manned mission on Mars at 80:1. “If it weren’t for the budget cuts, NASA would be the favorite,” PM states.

Last week at the GeekWire Summit, former astronaut Ed Lu told our audience that while there are a lot of interesting things going on in space exploration right now, but it’s just not coming from NASA.

“It [NASA] is certainly not dead, but they are lost at the moment, especially on the manned side,” Lu said, also expressing the opinion that when it comes to manned missions he was looking to the private sector to get us there first.

Other outliers but also contenders in the putting-humans-on-Mars space race include China, the Mars Society, Mars One, ESA, Inspiration Mars and Russia. But the closest odds to beating SpaceX? The Mars Society at 9:1.

But, as Han Solo says, “Never tell me the odds.” This is one race that will be exciting as hell to watch play out.

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