‘Don’t go to Mars’: Bill Gates slams Elon Musk’s space ambitions as a ‘waste of money’ because he could be putting billions into buying ‘measles vaccines and save lives’

Bill Gates has reignited an old feud with Elon Musk by attacking his ambitions to get to Mars and suggested he should his money to save lives by investing in measles vaccines.

Gates, 67, said during a BBC interview released on Friday that although Musk was having a positive impact on the world through Tesla, he did not consider him to be a real ‘philanthropist’ like Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and himself.

The Microsoft co-founder is famous for textbook philanthropy and established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 with a stated mission to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty around the world.

When asked by BBC journalist Amol Rajan if going to Mars was a good use of money, Gates said: ‘Not in my view.’

‘It’s actually quite expensive to go to Mars. You can buy measles vaccines and save lives for $1,000 per life saved,’ he said, explaining traveling to space is not a cost-effective way to save lives. ‘And so [that] just kind of grounds you, as in – don’t go to Mars.’

Bill Gates, 67, has criticized Elon Musk's ambitions to get to Mars and suggested he would be better off using his money to save lives by investing in measles vaccines

Bill Gates, 67, has criticized Elon Musk’s ambitions to get to Mars and suggested he would be better off using his money to save lives by investing in measles vaccines

Gates has long been an advocate of investment in vaccines and suggested on a number of occasions that pandemics and deadly diseases present a major threat to the future of humanity.

He famously warned in 2015 during a TED Talk that a virus like COVID-19 could be around the corner.

In contrast, fellow billionaire Musk has argued it’s important for the future of civilization that humans become ‘inter-planetary.’ He founded SpaceX in 2002 with a mission to build spacecraft and send crewed flights to Mars.

Gates did however commend Musk’s intelligence and ambition by suggesting that some day he might enter the league of philanthropy giants, but that his time was not now.

‘Some day I think he will join the rank of philanthropists, using his ingenuity,’ Gates said of Musk. ‘Obviously things like Tesla are having a positive impact even without being a form of philanthropy. But at the end of the day, I don’t think, other than going to Mars a few times, which might cost a little bit, I don’t think he’ll want to spend it on himself.’

SpaceX is already taking passengers into orbit and has reduced the cost of operating rockets by designing them such that they can land again after taking off, unlike traditional rockets. Musk has committed to getting to Mars in the next decade.

Musk and Gates have clashed before on the promise of hydrogen fuel cells. Musk has advocated powering electric cars with batteries whereas Gates once promoted a tweet saying that ‘cheap, clean hydrogen would be a massive energy breakthrough’.

Gates even famously shorted Tesla, causing him to profit enormously from the plummeting value of the car company’s stocks last year. Musk previously said had a Gates had a short of up to $2billion against his company.

The Tesla and SpaceX founder also mocked Gates’s appearance in April last year, comparing him to the pregnant man emoji.

Not long later Musk tweeted a ‘sigh’ in response to a link to a Breitbart article claiming that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ to numerous groups behind a campaign pushing advertisers to boycott Twitter if Musk were to take over.

The article said the Gates Foundation donated to 11 of the 26 signatories of an open letter pushing the boycott. Musk formally acquired Twitter in October last year, five months later.

Speaking to Chris Anderson, head of TED conferences, last April Musk gave a sense of what sending humans to Mars might actually look like.

Life ‘will be dangerous, cramped, difficult, hard work,’ he said, adding that ‘it will be dangerous, cramped, difficult, hard work,’ for the first visitors.

Musk estimates a one way ticket to Mars will cost the first generation of colonists $100,000, which he said was ‘relatively affordable for most people’.

During the BBC interview Gates addressed a range of issues, including how he became the target of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and accusations he had friendship with Jeffery Epstein. He also gave his thoughts on Donald Trump running for re-election.

He was asked whether he considered himself frugal and responded to accusations of hypocrisy over his use of a private jet while also claiming to be a climate activist.

‘I don’t fly commercial coach class, and I fly on a private plane – so that is extremely extravagant,’ he told Rajan. ‘I wouldn’t travel the world as much as I do, and I do more than offset all those emissions by things like paying for direct air capture to get done – that’s over $9million a year.’

He also said he doesn’t have a ‘gigantic closet’ and doesn’t wear jewellery.

‘When I’m unwrapping a present, I don’t take the wrapping and fold it up and use it again. My grandmother never threw a paper bag in her life or any string on a package. So by her standards, I’m crazy,’ he admitted.

The philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft has given tens of billions of dollars to charitable causes, and through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation targets the eradication of infectious diseases such as polio and malaria.

Asked how close his foundation, working with the World Health Organisation, is to eradicating polio, he said a credible plan was in place to do so in four years.

‘We only have a few hundred cases per year. And so, it’s magic if we can get to zero. We think we have a very credible plan to get there in four years, but it’s been much harder than we expected,’ Gates said.

His work on infectious diseases also made him subject to conspiracy theories that he was somehow behind COVID.

‘During the pandemic, there were tens of millions of messages that I intentionally caused it, or I’m tracking people. It’s true I’m involved with vaccines, but I’m involved with vaccines to save lives,’ he told the BBC.