Using his SpaceX company’s upcoming BFR rocket, Musk hopes to send two unmanned cargo ships to the Red Planet in 2022 and human passengers just two years later.
“That’s not a typo,” Musk said on Friday during his presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia. “Although it is aspirational.”
If that timeframe isn’t met, he said, it will be “soon thereafter.”
What will begin as a small settlement on Mars is expected to grow into a city:
Over time, Mars will be terraformed, Musk said, “making it really a nice place to be.”
The CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla also said the BFR would refuel in space for trips to the moon, meaning a lunar base would not need to keep a supply of fuel on hand.
“It’s 2017. I mean, we should have a lunar base by now,” Musk said. “What the hell is going on?”
Fuel would need to be produced on Mars to send the BFR back to Earth.
SpaceX will start building the BFR within six to nine months. The company expects it will eventually replace the current Falcon 9 rockets as well as the forthcoming Falcon Heavy rocket ― planned to launch later this year ― and Dragon capsules. Once completed, the BFR will be reusable, which will dramatically cut long-term costs, Musk said.
The increased capacity of the BFR will also allow it to carry bigger payloads, newer and larger space telescopes, service the International Space Station and even sweep up space junk and other debris orbiting the Earth. Those commercial enterprises would then pay for the company’s plans to expand beyond Earth and its settlement on Mars.
During the same presentation, Musk announced that the BFR rocket designed to take people to Mars could also be used for passenger travel here on Earth. Any destination would be reachable in under an hour, he said, and most trips would take less than 30 minutes. The price for such a trip would be the same as a full-fare economy ticket on a normal airplane.