During an surprise appearance at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Musk said his SpaceX company could launch its first rockets to Mars as soon as early 2019. "I think we'll be able to do short flights, short up-and-down flights, sometime in the first half of next year", he told screenwriter and director Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher, onstage.
The spacecraft, given the tongue-in-cheek working title of the "BFR", is set to be 3.5 times heavier than NASA's Saturn V Moon rocket. He did warn, however, that the first travelers to Mars would likely perish. "Once we have it, we'll have a sort-of point of proof, something that other countries and companies will go and do", he said.
With the colonization of a new planet, Musk also predicts an "explosion of entrepreneurial opportunities", and that life on our neighboring planet would start by building the fundamentals, like a power plant, glass domes for farming and, of course, pizza joints.
"For the early people that go to Mars, it will be far more unsafe", Musk said. FOX Business Hillary Vaughn reports from SXSW. "SpaceX is alive by the skin of its teeth, and so is Tesla - if things had just gone a little differently, both companies would be dead", he said.
SpaceX ran into trouble in 2008 when its Falcon 1 rocket failed to launch, and Tesla, named after 19th-century Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla, narrowly avoided bankruptcy just before Christmas that year.
Musk's ultimate goal, he revealed in September 2016, is to colonize Mars, a feat he hopes to achieve by drastically reducing the cost of spaceflight, which makes his reusable rockets key.