The award ceremony began with a rocket launch.

Elon Musk, the serial founder from Silicon Valley, and invited guests experienced on the 19th floor of the Axel Springer Building in Berlin what it feels like to fly from Earth into space.

On huge screens around them, they followed the take-off from the roof of the skyscraper - from the perspective of the astronauts.

Moderator Barbara Schöneberger, in a "padded space suit that is easy to bulge", gave the commands for departure.

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The media and technology company Axel Springer, which also owns WELT and “Bild”, invited Musk to the “Mission to Mars” - to give him this year's Axel Springer Award.

Having arrived virtually in space, CEO Mathias Döpfner spoke with Musk about his vision for the future of humanity on earth and in space.

He left hardly any doubt that the entrepreneur is moving there himself.

"In two or three years I'll be going into space myself," said Musk.

But his biggest project is to bring all of humanity into space.

In an interview with Döpfner, it became clear that Musk is working both on earth and in space to secure the future of the world's population - and that with the means of an entrepreneur.

Döpfner called the Tesla and SpaceX founder an extraordinarily talented engineer and businessman with outstanding talents.

“When I first met Elon a few years ago, not many people trusted his vision or his abilities as CEO,” he said.

“For a long time he seemed too big a rule breaker, a business punk.

But he showed everyone, also here in Germany, how wrong they were. "


Musk said he anticipates humans will land on Mars for the first time in six years.

“If we're lucky, we can do it in four years,” he says.

Flights to the red planet are possible every 26 months because there is then a favorable approach to earth.

This constellation will occur again in the coming summer.

His company's unmanned Mars mission is slated to start in just two years.

The right flight models - in huge dimensions

The important thing now is to develop the technology so that people can fly to Mars and other planets.

A self-sufficient city could be built on Mars and a space base on the moon.

"I am optimistic about the future on earth, but it is important to have life insurance for humanity," he said.

Musk doesn't want this to be understood as Plan B, but as an exciting and inspiring design of the future for humanity in space.

“For a long time he seemed to be too big a rule breaker, a business punk,” says Mathias Döpfner (right), CEO of Axel Springer, about award winner Elon Musk

Source: Martin UK Lengemann / WELT

“When you wake up in the morning, it can't always be about problems,” says Musk.

He is enthusiastic about imagining a future with a city on Mars or even on the moons of Jupiter.

When asked if he would like to be buried on Mars, Musk said that in the future there would indeed be an opportunity to be born on Earth and die on Mars.

With Tesla, he is looking after a good future on earth and with his space company SpaceX, such a future in space.


Musk's space plans are extremely ambitious.

His SpaceX group, founded 18 years ago, has become the pacemaker in the industry worldwide.

He is the first and so far the only one to build recycling rockets for satellites or manned capsules, the propulsion stages of which can be reused.

This year, Musk released the US from its trauma of having to rely on flight opportunities from Russia for flights to the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon capsule developed by SpaceX has already been manned twice and is currently docked at the ISS.

Mars Mission: The Axel Springer Award was specially designed for Elon Musk as a journey to the red planet

Source: Martin UK Lengemann / WELT

Derived from the Mars flight idea, Musk develops the appropriate flight models - in gigantic dimensions.

According to the latest design, his Mars rocket will be around 120 meters high, nine meters in diameter and be able to lift over 100 tons of weight into near-Earth orbit.

It should offer space for up to 100 astronauts.

The two-stage, reusable rocket weighing 5000 tons would be larger than America's giant rocket Saturn V, the pioneer of the 1969 moon landing.

"We need a little more of Musk's courage"

In his laudation for the award winner, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) praised Elon Musk as a “pioneer for a whole generation of courageous entrepreneurs and scientists.

For people who believe in the power of ideas and that progress is possible. ”Almost exactly a year ago, Musk announced the construction of the Tesla factory in the same room outside the gates of Berlin.

The shell of the plant is now largely finished, and automobile production is scheduled to begin in summer 2021.


It is even a new experience for Germany if a factory is built up from scratch within a few months, said Spahn.

"We need a little more courage from Musk to reduce bureaucratic obstacles and thus promote innovation." The Tesla boss wanted to change the world a little and ultimately revolutionized it.

"I am convinced that Germany has a lot of the visionary power that drives you, Mr. Musk," said Spahn.

“We just have to have the courage to believe in ourselves more often.

You are a great role model for us in this regard. "

Praise Musk's courage to reduce bureaucratic obstacles and promote innovations: Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU)

Source: Martin UK Lengemann / WELT

The health minister also criticized Musk's statement that he did not want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and that some protective measures by the state in the pandemic were excessive.

"To be a visionary does not mean to always be right or to be free from contradictions," said Spahn.

Musk is right that health protection cannot be paramount;

it's always about balance.

For him, however, health protection is extremely important.

Nevertheless, it is legitimate to advocate a different weighting.

Musk's drive: creativity, six children and music

But Musk also had a political message with him on his evening.

He warned again about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence (AI).

"When I see people on their cell phones, I sometimes think that we are already serving the machines and not the other way around," he joked.

In just a few years there will be computers "that will be smarter than humans in every respect," said the Tesla boss.

This point in time when artificial intelligence outperforms human intelligence for the first time, the so-called singularity, could, in his opinion, be reached as early as 2025.

"Like a black hole, it's hard to predict what will happen then," said Musk.

Artificial intelligence is a potential danger to the public, so its development must be controlled and supervised by the state.

After all, there is also such a control for other potential sources of danger such as cars or drugs that require state approval.

"We don't let people develop atomic bombs in the garden, either," Musk said.

"And artificial intelligence has the potential to be more dangerous than an atomic bomb." However, this danger will not look like in a Hollywood film.

“The car won't one day wake up and take over the world,” predicted the Tesla boss.

Nevertheless, artificial intelligence is one of the greatest threats to all of humanity.

From another planet: presenter Barbara Schöneberger (left) hosted the evening - and presented the prize winners Musk

Source: Martin UK Lengemann / WELT

An escape to Mars can probably not avert this threat.

After the virtual landing on the planet, it became clear that evening what drives the founder in his private life: creativity, his six children and music.

Years ago, Musk had composed his own song - recorded with his girlfriend, the musician Grimes, and a friend - and released it on a streaming service under an invented label.

Star DJ Sven Väth has remixed this and other songs for him.

The musician's son painted a record cover with a rocket for it.

Musk takes the record home with him, the price is undoped.

And the prizewinner spends the night where his ambitions live: he explained to the astonished audience that he would sleep in the factory in Grünheide, in a conference room.

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