Bill Gates Says Elon Musk Could Be a 'Great Philanthropist,' But Questions Space Missions: 'Don't Go to Mars'

Bill Gates, Elon Musk
Bill Gates, Elon Musk

Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty; JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Bill Gates, Elon Musk

Bill Gates says he isn't interested in traveling to Mars and would prefer to spend his money helping people on Earth.

At one point in an interview with the BBC, which will air in full on Friday, the 67-year-old Microsoft co-founder was asked directly about Elon Musk and philanthropy.

"Would you encourage him to join your club of mega-philanthropists?" the interviewer asked, specifically referencing Gates and Warren Buffett — two co-creators of The Giving Pledge, a promise hundreds of the world's richest people made to donate the majority of their earnings to charity — as well as Jeff Bezos, who recently announced he plans to give away most of his fortune within his lifetime.

"I think some day he'll be a great philanthropist," Gates replied, noting that "things like Tesla are having a positive impact even without being a form of philanthropy."

Gates went on to share that "other than going to Mars a few times, which might cost a little bit," he doesn't believe Musk, 51, will spend most of his fortune on himself.

"So yeah, some day I think he will join the rank of philanthropists," he added.

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Asked specifically if he thought going to Mars would be "a good use of money," Gates replied, "not in my view."

"It's actually quite expensive to go to Mars," he said, noting that there were "definitely" pressing issues to attend to on Earth.

"You can buy measles vaccines and save lives for $1,000 per life saved, and so it just kind of grounds you, as in don't go to Mars," he continued.

According to the BBC, Gates — currently ranked as the fourth richest person in the world on Bloomberg's Billionaire Index — is also focused on fighting climate change and malnutrition.

So far, Musk — the second richest person in the world, per the ranking — has not publicly commented on the remarks.

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The two billionaires have a history of not seeing eye-to-eye.

In April, Musk claimed that he turned down teaming up with Gates on a philanthropic project after asking if Gates had shorted Tesla, meaning that the tech billionaire would make a profit if the value of the stock fell.

"I heard from multiple people at TED that Gates still had half billion short against Tesla, which is why I asked him, so it's not exactly top secret," Musk wrote on Twitter, a company he now owns.

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In an interview with CNBC from 2021, Gates was directly asked if he shorted Tesla stock.

"I don't talk about my investments," he said at the time, going on to note that Musk "should be very proud of what he's done."

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In his annual year-end post on the Gates Notes blog, the 67-year-old said that in remaining committed to charitable giving, he'll likely end up dropping off lists of the world's wealthiest people.

"Although I don't care where I rank on the list of the world's richest people, I do know that as I succeed in giving, I will drop down and eventually off the list altogether," he said.

"But I started looking at the world through a new lens recently — when my older daughter gave me the incredible news that I'll become a grandfather next year," Gates explained. "When I think about the world my grandchild will be born into, I'm more inspired than ever to help everyone's children and grandchildren have a chance to survive and thrive."