Oddsmaker Puts SpaceX on Mars Ahead of NASA

A conceptual drawing of the SpaceX Dragon capsule on Mars. (Photo: SpaceX)

While we all assume that NASA will one day make history and place the first human on Mars, one Las Vegas oddsmaker isn't so sure.

In the October issue of Popular Mechanics, Raphael Esparza of Doc's Sports Service predicts that Elon Musk's SpaceX will reach the red planet first. The oddsmaker gives the private space company 5:1 odds, noting that "they have the desire and the funds" to make it happen.

NASA, who has been riding a wave of publicity thanks to the box office success of "The Martian," is given 80:1 odds of beating the competition. Despite the space agency's track record - as well as its advances in building next-generation rocket technology - Esparza believes the ever-looming threat of budget cuts will ultimately sideline its Mars ambitions. Other government entities fare equally poor, with the European Space Agency (300:1), China (100:1), and Russia (60:1) all long shots.

Where Esparza's picks become more puzzling are those organizations he believes have a close shot at beating SpaceX. These include The Mars Society (9:1) and the much-maligned Mars One (15:1), which one finalist earlier this year called a "hopelessly flawed scheme."

As for Musk, he's firm that SpaceX could place the first human on Mars in 12-16 years.

"With most ideas, the execution is really the hard part, and order to make that happen you need to have lots of talented people working together towards a common goal to achieve that," he said. "And that’s what we want to put together at SpaceX."