Elon Musk Says Flights to Mars Will Start in 2019

SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave a rough estimate on when a voyage to Mars will take place, and it's closer than you might think.

Musk held a question-and-answer segment with fans while attending the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) this weekend and was asked about the possibilities of sending a spaceship to the red planet.

"We are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think well [s.i.c.] be able to [do] short trips, flights by first half of next year," Musk said, according to CNBC. "Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know..."

Musk announced back in September that by 2022 he wants his privately-funded company to send a cargo mission to Mars, with the intent on finding sources of water and establish the first human settlement on a planet other than Earth.

The SpaceX BFR rocket system is expected to have the capabilities of interplanetary flight and be reusable, even though a trip would cost between five-six million per flight.

"The biggest thing that would be helpful is just general support and encouragement and goodwill," Musk said. "I think once we build it we'll have a point of proof something that other companies and countries can go and do. They certainly don't think it's possible, but if we do they'll up their game."

Musk went on to say the colony would need basic living fundamentals before it officially becomes a colony, hinting at things like glass domes and power stations. After that, "then really the explosion of entrepreneurial opportunity [will begin] because Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints."

The SpaceX program launched its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket to take flight in history, back in February, carrying Musk's Tesla Roadster and an astronaut dummy into space.

Musk, who was being filmed by National Geographic as the rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center, was astounded as he watched the flight.

"Holy flying f—, that thing took off," Musk said.

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After watching the launch from monitors inside the space center, Musk ran outside to watch the rocket as it headed for Earth's orbit. The Falcon Heavy's side boosters detached and safely landed in their target locations back on the ground, prompting Musk to say, "Look at that, that's unreal."

Elsewhere in the interview, Musk answered questions about his other business ventures, including the Tesla automobile company and The Boring Company, which he joked he actually spends more time tweeting about than actually working on.