Musk and Colbert
Elon Musk appears on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Sept. 9. Credit: CBS

WASHINGTON — SpaceX founder Elon Musk has been called many things over the years, but he received a new title courtesy of talk show host Stephen Colbert: supervillain.

Musk, appearing on the second episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS Sept. 9, got an opportunity to talk about both SpaceX and electric car company Tesla, as well as his aspirations to make Mars a second home for humanity.

“You’re trying to do good things, and you’re a billionaire,” Colbert told Musk. “That seems a little bit like either superhero or supervillain. You have to choose one.”

Musk declined to identify himself as either, but Colbert got his answer later in the interview, as Musk described making Mars, “a fixer-upper of a planet,” habitable. There was, he said, a fast way and a slow way to terraform Mars. “The fast way is to drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles,” Musk said.

“You’re a supervillain!” Colbert responded. “That’s what a supervillain does.”

Colbert, though, seemed genuinely enthused about SpaceX’s plans to develop reusable launch vehicles and launch people into space. That included showing a video of SpaceX’s latest attempt to land a stage on a ship (not a barge, Musk chided Colbert) back in April. When Musk said SpaceX would be ready to start flying people in two to three years, Colbert responded, “You’re kidding! That’s nothing!”

Colbert unmasks Musk as a supervillain in the clip below, but you’ll need to watch the full episode (starting at 27:30) for the complete interview, including discussions of reusable rockets.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...