We are planning to go to Mars right now but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has already set his wandering eye on a new planet that is completely outside our star system.
Over the weekend, Musk considered the possibility of visiting the relatively nearby Proxima Centauri B, one of the closest exoplanets to us and a little more than four light-years away.
James Cameron's "Avatar" franchise is also based on this star system. The Proxima B exoplanet discovered in 2016, and thought to be particularly viable as potentially life-supporting worlds, something Musk appears to be looking into.
"Practically next door" the owner of Twitter and SpaceX, tweeted in response to a tweet that described the space academy's blog post as a fascinating planet.
This would require Musk's SpaceX to actually build a starship that doesn't explode before reaching orbit in order to eventually be able to mine Centauri B for unobtanium - pardon, to explore peacefully - but we digress. It's nice to keep on dreamin.
It's worth noting that while Proxima B is fairly close to Earth on the grander cosmic stage, it's not exactly close by human standards. By mere Earthly measurements, the promising exoplanet sits over 2,3510,000,000,000 miles away.
In plain English, that's a good twenty-three trillion five hundred ten billion miles.
Mars, by contrast — which we've still yet to put a human on — is about 195.45 million miles away from us. Regardless of its distance, however, Proxima B is promising.
It sits in what NASA calls on its website the "habitable zone" away from its star, Proxima Centauri, where it's believed that liquid water would pool, rather than freeze or evaporate.
But that said, according to NASA, the much-studied exoplanet is believed to experience "bouts of extreme ultraviolet radiation hundreds of times greater than Earth does from the Sun," which may well prove to limit how habitable the exoplanet really is.
Even so, scientists — and the ever-happy-to-populate-planets SpaceX owner, apparently — remain intrigued. But only for research purposes, of course. No mining bots here.