Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, recently opened his mind about a number of things concerning space. He suggested that his plans to outfit the Dragon to make a rocket powered landing had been set aside, putting the jeopardy the Red Dragon project to land on Mars. Musk said that the first launch of the Falcon Heavy, slated to occur later this year, will be a particularly exciting event. However, when he called for the establishment of a Moon Base at the ISS Research and Development conference in Washington, D.C, eyebrows raised. Musk has hitherto not been very interested in the moon.

Elon Musk is a practical businessman and wide eyed visionary

Musk said, according to Space.com, "To really get the public real fired up, I think we've got to have a base on the moon." He then added that getting people to live on the moon and then sending them to Mars is the sort of project that people are looking for.

Musk has been a curious combination of practical businessman and wide eyed visionary for the past couple of decades. He has been working diligently to create a reusable space launch system in the form of the Falcon 9 with considerable success. The first stage of the Falcon now regularly lands, either on an ocean going barge or near the launch pad it lifted off from. Some of those first stages have already been reused.

The process promises to cut the cost of space travel and, incidentally, grab for SpaceX quite a bit of the launch market.

Musk has also dreamed of building a settlement on Mars, a vision he expanded on during a conference in Mexico. The notion of making the human race a multi-planet species, the better to preserve it in the case of a planetary catastrophe, is an old one.

Musk, who has already gotten a reputation for doing things once thought impossible, has helped make the notion respectable.

Why a moon base?

One might be forgiven for suspecting that Elon Musk called for a moon base because Vice President Mike Pence recently called for a return to the moon. The theory is that SpaceX could get a share of that project.

Musk has already announced that he intends to send two paying customers around the moon in a specially outfitted Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon Heavy. SpaceX could deliver cargo and people to the lunar surface given a fat, NASA contract to do so.

Musk also knows that a moon base, mining water and refining it into rocket fuel, will serve his Mars vision neatly. His envisioned Interplanetary Transport System could save a lot of weight on the way to Mars if it stopped in lunar orbit and topped off on fuel. The situation would be a win-win, the moon base servicing Musk's ultimate dream of a new home for humanity on Mars.