Elon Musk's bid to send humans to Mars is a "dangerous delusion" and "unrealistic", experts have warned.
Astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees – the UK's Astronomer Royal – claimed the billionaire's ambitious plan to build "glass domes" on the Red Planet's surface would be like living at the South Pole or the top of Mount Everest.
A decade ago, the SpaceX CEO announced he hoped to send people to the planet by 2025 and aimed to colonise Mars "in our lifetimes".
He also recently shared his dream on Twitter, posting that he believed it was "possible to make a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050, if we start in five years".
However, speaking at this year's World Government Summit, Lord Rees added that Mars' treacherous terrain would make make it difficult to sustain human life.
"The only reason for humans to go to space would be for adventure. To live on Mars is not going to be easy," he said. "Mars has a hostile environment.
"So, the idea of Elon Musk to have a million people settle on Mars is a dangerous delusion. Living on Mars is no better than living on the South Pole or the tip of Mount Everest."
Lord Rees's view was supported by prominent astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, who also spoke at the event.
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"To ship a billion people to another planet to help them survive a catastrophe on earth seems unrealistic," he said.
"If you want to call Mars home, you need to terraform Mars, turn it into Earth. It is so much easier to make Earth return to Earth again rather than terraforming Mars.
"There is no force on Earth as potent as the exploration of space that impacts our thoughts and ambitions. Thinking about the future is half of what drives the future. Space will always remain as an inspiration for young people and it is an area we need to support."
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The opinions come after the Hope Probe from the United Arab Emirates began orbiting the Red Planet last month.
The two-year mission will analyse the seventh-largest planet in the solar system's weather, atmosphere and changing seasons.
Speaking at the annual summit in Dubai, Dr Tyson added that further exploration of the solar system was essential because it is the "world's backyard".
"Space is for everyone and the solar system is the world's backyard," he said. "So, it's great to see that collaborations are becoming important in space exploration and countries are coming together to share knowledge and resources."
Last month, Nasa'a Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars' Jezero Crater to search for life on the planet after almost seven months since taking off from Earth.
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