Are You Prepared to Die for a Trip to Mars?

“The first people who fly with SpaceX to Mars should be ok with the possibility that the decision could cost them their lives, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said…I think the first journeys to Mars are going to be really very dangerous. The risk of fatality will be high; there’s just no way around it…for this reason, he would not suggest sending children on these flights.” M. Wall,

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key



Excerpt: 1st Mars Colonists Should Be Prepared to Die Elon Musk Says By Mike Wall,

SpaceX aims to ferry 1 million people to the Red Planet over the next 50 to 100 years using the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), a rocket-spaceship combo that Musk unveiled Tuesday (Sept. 27) during a talk at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Well, he unveiled the ITS in concept; neither vehicle has been built yet.)



Musk painted a picture of a not-too-distant future in which 1,000 or more ITS spaceships, each loaded up with 100 or 200 settlers, zoom off toward Mars simultaneously from Earth orbit.



But it’s naïve to expect that everything will work perfectly from the start, he said. Musk said he’d like to go to Mars, but it’s unclear if he’ll be among the Red Planet vanguard.



I would definitely need to have a very good succession plan, because the probability of death is quite high on the first mission, and I’d like to see my kids grow up and everything — so, some pros and cons there.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. SpaceX aims to ferry 1 million people to the Red Planet.
  2. Spaceships  will move toward Mars simultaneously from Earth.
  3. It’s naïve to expect that everything will work perfectly.
  4. The risk of fatality will be high.
  5. Musk spoke In a teleconference with reporters.
  6. Musk will not be among the Mars vanguard.
  7. SpaceX  was developed chiefly to help humanity colonize Mars.
  8. Musk reiterated his  argument during the IAC presentation.
  9. There is always a risk of humanity’s extinction.
  10. It would be an incredible adventure.

Reading Comprehension


Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Musk has long___ that he ___SpaceX in 2002 ___to help ___colonize Mars. Becoming a multiplanet___ would ___as an insurance policy, minimizing the___ of humanity’s ___should something___ happen on Earth.

WORD LIST: terrible, species, said, risk, humanity, founded, chiefly,  extinction,serve

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. The first journey to Mars will going to be really dangerous.
  2. The risk of fatality will be high.
  3. Setting up shop on Mars isn’t going to be a cakewalk.


  1. This is less about who goes there first.
  2. It’s worth the risk to become an multiplanetary species.
  3. Musk says the trip to Mars will be an incredible adventure.


  1. Life needs to be more  then just solving problems.
  2. It’s about protecting human life.
  3. This mission is also about having a tremendous sense of adventure.


Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

Directions: Students could use this  Topic/Concept/Theme organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main topic or theme of the article.

Advanced Spider map By writedesignonline

Create Questions

Directions: Place students in groups.  Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

Group Project: What Will Colonists Need on Mars?

Directions:  In groups make a list of the six most important items you think the first colonists on Mars would need to bring. The items should be necessary for survival.  The group can only choose six items! Get together as a class and create a new list of the six most important items.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


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