Neil Degrasse Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist, and media personality, was recently asked about SpaceX’s Elon Musk’s Mars ambitions. Tyson, who has been a critic of commercial space, had a rude answer concerning whether he would board a commercial colony ship to the Red Planet. “I’m not taking that trip until Elon Musk sends his mother and brings her back alive. Then I’m good for it.”

Maye Musk is a model and dietician residing in Canada, having been educated and raised a family in South Africa, and is a successful businesswoman in her own right.

Neither she nor her more famous son has so far made any comment about Tyson’s caustic suggestion.

Tyson went on to concede that the development of a Reusable Falcon 9 is a big deal for its potential to make space travel more affordable. He has maintained that government space agencies such as NASA have a role in developing space technology and providing it on missions before profit making companies such as SpaceX uses it. However, the idea of landing the first stage of a rocket on a drone barge and then reusing it was developed in-house at SpaceX.

Tyson also seems to be somewhat obtuse, perhaps deliberately so, about the purpose of Musk’s Mars plans. The SpaceX CEO wants to build a settlement on the red planet where people would move to and live out their lives. There would be no paying a visit and going back, no more than there was for the inhabitants of Jamestown, Plymouth or, to be sure, Roanoke Island. Musk has expressed the desire to die on Mars, though “not on impact” he hastens to say.

Tyson is not likely to be good Mars colonist material in any case unless he becomes so angry with Donald Trump that living 100 million miles away on a desolate planet would be preferred to living under his presidency. He has carved out a productive life for himself, with his frequent media appearances, his books, and his exasperating tweets. If Tyson were to move to Mars, he might actually have to do something more useful than dissing Pluto as a planet, such as doing some real science.

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