Elon Musk today laid out more detail about his company SpaceX’s plans for space travel to Mars — in order to eventually support human civilization on that planet — during a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session.

In September, Musk talked for the first time about SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), which will involve the Falcon Heavy rocket, the Red Dragon capsule, and even the production of propellant on Mars to return to Earth, among other things.

Much of the information Musk mentioned in the AMA was technical in nature. But he also mentioned something new: the proposed use of “droids” on Mars. Here’s what Musk said, in response to a question from Reddit user Ulysius about what “permanent habitation” Musk imagines:

Initially, glass panes with carbon fiber frames to build geodesic domes on the surface, plus a lot of miner/tunneling droids. With the latter, you can build out a huge amount of pressurized space for industrial operations and leave the glass domes for green living space.

Musk didn’t elaborate on the droids he envisioned. Still, it’s interesting, given that a couple of years ago Musk said that artificial intelligence could be “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” If anything, the idea is reminiscent of the robots of science fiction like Star Wars.

Of course, unmanned vehicles are already part of NASA’s Mars research, the Curiosity rover being the most obvious example. And SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rocket is unmanned. So this wouldn’t be unprecedented. But it would represent a new layer of autonomy for SpaceX’s interplanetary initiative.


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