Elon Musk believes SpaceX’s interplanetary spaceship will be ready by 2019

Elon Musk has never been one to keep his thoughts to himself. It’s no secret that he hopes to make humans a multi-planet species but, speaking at South by Southwest (SXSW) this weekend, it appears his plan could materialise sooner than expected.

Previously he had outlined hopes to send cargo missions to Mars by 2022, which will eventually lead to human colonisation. Now, it appears that SpaceX may well be ready to start sending rockets up to Mars as soon as 2019. During a surprise Q&A session, Musk told attendees that “we are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think we’ll be able to make short trips, flights, by the first half of next year”.

Now, don’t take this to mean we’ll be sending up humans or payloads to Mars as early as next year. What Musk is really saying is that SpaceX will have rockets ready to make that journey to Mars from next year and, if all goes to plan, it’ll launch them next year as part of its tests.

SpaceX’s BFR rocket system should allow for interplanetary travel and, like all of the company’s rockets, should be completely reusable. A single flight will cost less than Musk’s initial Falcon 1 flights – around $5 to $6 million. If BFR goes successfully in 2019, Musk hopes this will spur others to follow suit and believe interplanetary travel is possible.

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“The biggest thing that would be helpful is just general support, encouragement and goodwill. 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.”

Of course, in amongst all of this, Musk is still trying to calm the hype around a 2019 launch. “Sometimes my timelines are a little, you know…” he said, in acknowledgement of his ambitious project timelines. I doubt the missing word was going to be “pessimistic.”

Away from the show, Musk has also spoken about other projects he’s working on, including more information on The Boring Company’s plans and how he envisions Hyperloop working. Speaking at the show, Musk revealed that he plans for both Hyperloop and The Boring Company to prioritise pedestrians and public transport over cars – going against the initial video the company released showing cars dropping into a network of tunnels underneath a city.

The news came as a single tweet, “adjusting The Boring Company plan: all tunnels & Hyperloop will prioritise pedestrians & cyclists over cars.” He then elaborated upon this point by clarifying in a follow-up tweet that The Boring Company “will still transport cars, but only after all personalised mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first.”

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His next tweet, which was followed up by a rough video as an example, sparked quite a bit of discussion online, suggesting Musk was building nothing more than a network of bus stops.

Of course, to think that the urban loop system of “1000’s of small stations the size of a single parking space” is the same as a bus stop is rather narrow-minded. I, for one, would champion the idea of a bus stop that let my bus to work slip past all the traffic clogging up central London by dropping underground and raising up again at a different stop.

In fact, my only issue with Musk’s utopian idea of bus travel is that no bus in the world is as clean and spacious as the one shown in that video.

In the end, though, Musk did concede that, perhaps, he’d just reinvented the bus, tweeting “I guess you could say it’s a 150mph, underground, autonomous, electric bus that automatically switches between tunnels and lifts. So, yes, a bus.”

As with everything Musk has said about The Boring Company so far, it’s all still very intangible. In fact, during the SXSW question and answer panel, he even joked that he tweets about it more than he actually works on it. So that’s good to know.

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