Trending: Redfin lays off 7% of staff, furloughs hundreds of agents due to COVID-19 impact on housing demand
Elon Musk
Elon Musk has his sights set on going to Mars. (SpaceX via YouTube)

President Donald Trump may be beaming over a newly signed law that calls on NASA to look into sending astronauts to Mars by 2033, but not Elon Musk.

SpaceX’s billionaire CEO is aiming to put his fortune behind a push to send up to a million settlers to Mars, starting as early as the mid-2020s.

In a back-and-forth series of tweets with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Musk made clear that he’s looking for much more than words from the federal government when it comes to Mars missions.

The exchange started with Swisher’s reaction to Trump’s signing of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which confirms the space agency’s commitment to deep-space exploration and the journey to Mars:

Recode says Musk didn’t immediately respond to Swisher’s interest in a follow-up, but it’s fairly clear where he’s coming from.

The authorization bill lays out the sense of Congress for Mars exploration. However, it doesn’t commit any new funds, or set up any new programs to get there. That would have to come in later legislation that’s still little more than a twinkle in a senator’s eye.

Musk has big plans for Mars: Last year, he laid out a strategy to build giant spaceships to take 100 settlers at a time to Red Planet outposts. He said he expected to spend the bulk of his personal fortune, currently valued at $13.4 billion, on the decades-long effort – but even if that’s the case, SpaceX would need NASA’s buy-in.

SpaceX plans to start its Mars campaign in earnest with a robotic Dragon mission in 2020, fronted by the company but with NASA as a potential customer. That kind of financial and logistical support could be what Musk is looking for in future legislation.

To be sure, lawmakers made much over this week’s signing of the authorization bill. The most egregious example was a comment from U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who said the legislation could turn Trump into “the father of the interplanetary highway system.”

But you can’t take everything that a member of Congress says seriously. After all, when Trump noted how risky an astronaut’s job was, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, helpfully suggested that “you could send Congress to space.”

“What a great idea that could be,” Trump replied.

Hmm … on second thought, maybe Cruz better be careful what he says.

Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter


Job Listings on GeekWork

Executive AssistantRad Power Bikes
Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.