Elon Musk reveals what his tunnel under LA has to do with Mars

Elon Musk reveals what his tunnel under LA has to do with MarsThere’s been a significant amount of mystery and speculation around Elon Musk’s Boring Company—his effort to bore tunnels under LA to bypass traffic—and its possible connection to SpaceX.  On Wednesday, Musk removed some of that mystery. SEE ALSO: What mysterious plan does Elon Musk have for X.com? Appearing as a guest at the International Space Station Research and Development (ISSR&D) Conference in Washington, D.C., Musk spent most of his time talking about the most recent SpaceX missions and his thoughts about international space travel efforts.  But during the Q&A session, one audience member asked what we've all been wondering: Is the Boring Company really just practice for building tunnels on Mars?  "I do think getting good at digging tunnels could be really helpful for Mars," said Musk. "It would be a different optimization for a Mars boring machine versus an Earth boring machine. For sure there's going to be a lot of icing mining on Mars, and mining in general to get raw materials." Yes, of course, we'd need to use boring machines to help us find resources and mine ice. Sounds reasonable. But enough of the coy, self-effacing routine, what about those amazing cities on the covers of the science fiction novels we all know you read as a child?  "And then, along the way, building underground habitats where you could get radiation shielding… you could build an entire city underground if you wanted to," said Musk. "People are still going to want to go to the surface from time to time, but you can build a tremendous amount underground with the right boring technology on Mars. So I
do think there is some overlap in that technology development arena."   Musk wouldn't go as far as saying that the primary (
secret?) intent of the Boring Company was to test Mars colony-building techniques, rather than merely defeating Earth traffic, but with these statements, he came pretty close.  Along those lines, another attendee asked Musk about the oft-mentioned potential risks to the human body related to space travel on the way to Mars (radiation damage, etc.).  To his credit, in answering, he remained upfront about the risks associated with his dream of putting humans on Mars.  "Going to Mars is not for the faint of heart," said Musk. "It's risky, dangerous, uncomfortable, and you might die. Now, do you wont to go? For some the answer will be: Hell no. For some, it will be: Hell yes."  That answer drew laughter from the audience, but it's a real concern that he's not attempting to diminish. However, looking decades forward, Musk doesn't think the issue of radiation will stop humans from traveling into space on a routine basis.  "I don't think you'll get irradiated to death," said Musk. "With some moderate shielding we can cut down on a large percent of incremental radiation, so the marginal risk of cancer isn't something that's going to be a show stopper." That said, Musk warned, again, "If safety is your top goal, I wouldn't go to Mars."  WATCH: Elon Musk's vision for traffic-skipping underground tunnels looks pretty incredible WATCH: Elon Musk's vision for traffic-skipping underground tunnels looks pretty incredible

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