There’s been plenty of talk lately about future missions to Mars that will carry human crew members. It would be an incredible achievement to successfully (and safely) land a human on the surface of another planet, but it’s something that has never even been attempted, much less accomplished.

With a steady stream of advancements in AI technology and robotics it’s not entirely out of the question that the first “resident” of Mars might actually not be a human at all, but a machine. One inquisitive Twitter user decided to ask Elon Musk what his thoughts were on the first Martian being an intelligent machine rather than a human.

The brief exchange was fairly straightforward, with Musk being asked what he thinks the chances are that the first Martian is an AI rather than a human. Not one to waste valuable tweet characters, Musk responded by saying “30%.”

With no explanation as to why he landed at that figure we’re left to wonder what factors Musk weighed when considering it or if he’s just venturing a blind guess, but it’s important to note that there are many different forms that a “Mars AI” could take.

It could be anything from a self-sufficient rover-like robot to a static lander that conducts experiments and makes observations without direct commands from its handlers. A machine with AGI (artificial general intelligence) or ASI (artificial super intelligence) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a human-like robot at all.

At present, manned Mars missions are entirely hypothetical. Companies like SpaceX and scientific bodies around the world have been working hard to invent technologies capable of allowing humans to venture far beyond Earth’s moon but we’re still likely a decade or perhaps several decades away from attempting it. By that point, a crew comprised of both humans and AI might end up being the best bet for success, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

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