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BFR landing on Mars
An artist’s conception shows SpaceX’s BFR rocket landing on Mars. (SpaceX via YouTube)

If sending humans to Mars is a race, which team is favored to win? Bookies give the nod to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin venture, but it’ll be years before any bet pays off.

David Strauss, an analyst and oddsmaker at MyBookie, says NASA is the underdog and Musk is the favorite.

“Bezos may have the discipline, but Musk has the infrastructure and just the right amount of craziness to make a successful mission happen,” he said today in a news release. “The days of government organizations staging trips to another planet are behind us. I would be surprised if NASA truly makes it back to the moon.”

MyBookie’s betting line gives SpaceX a 75 percent chance of sending humans to Mars first. Technically speaking, the odds are -300, which means bettors would have to lay down $300 to get their money back with an additional $100 if the bet pays off.

Blue Origin is the runner-up with a 20 percent chance: The stated odds are +400, which means a $100 bet will pay your money back plus another $400 if the proposition comes true.

Coming in with even longer odds are Boeing (+500, or 17 percent), the yet-to-be-created Space Force (+2000, or 5 percent), Russia (+4500, or 2 percent), NASA (+6000, or 1.6 percent), China (+8500, or 1.2 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (+20,000, or 0.5 percent).

SpaceX says it’s planning to start sending people to Mars in 2024, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the company won’t meet that aspirational launch schedule. That’s reflected in another proposition, asking whether humans will land on Mars during Donald Trump’s presidency. MyBookie sets the chances of that happening at around 9 percent (+1000).

Bezos and others at Blue Origin have included Mars in their long-term vision, but not as the first priority. Outposts in space and on the moon are higher on the list.

“When we have millions of people living and working in space, we want them to be able to go to lots of destinations,” Blue Origin’s Rob Meyerson said in 2016. “Mars would be one of them. The moon would be another.”

At this month’s GeekWire Summit, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the first humans on Mars will get there on a Boeing-built rocket. But he’s referring to his company’s role in developing NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System, which is currently due to start taking on crewed missions to Mars no earlier than the 2030s. So you might need to roll the bets on Boeing and NASA into one pot.

For what it’s worth, the Bovada betting site has similar propositions on Mars missions, with similar odds. SpaceX is favored with a 77 percent chance (-350). Blue Origin’s chances are set at 20 percent (+400), Boeing at 14 percent (+600) and the Space Force at 7 percent (+1400).

Bovada weighs the chances that a human being will set foot on Mars by 2025 at 27 percent (+275).

Far be it from me to handicap the handicappers, or advocate activities that may be illegal in your jurisdiction. But Ars Technica’s Eric Berger has some sensible advice, particularly on the proposition that people will make it to Mars during the Trump administration:

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