Elon Musk claims SpaceX will launch rocket to Mars in 2019

Elon Musk speaks after the Falcon Heavy rocket last month: Joe Skipper/Reuters
Elon Musk speaks after the Falcon Heavy rocket last month: Joe Skipper/Reuters

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has suggested that his company will be ready to fly a rocket to Mars in 2019.

Speaking during a question and answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, the technology entrepreneur said that the “short flights” could begin by the middle of next year.

“I can tell you what I know currently is the case is that we are building the first ship, the first Mars interplanetary ship right now,” Musk told the crowd.

“And I think we'll be able to do short flights, sort of up-and-down flights, probably some time in the first half of next year,” he said during the session on Sunday.

However, the Tesla founder did acknowledge that he had a habit of being a bit too ambitious with when projects will roll out.”People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, so I'm trying to recalibrate to some degree here,” Musk said.

The privately-funded SpaceX venture was announced in September 2017, with the aim of sending a cargo mission to Mars by 2022. The ultimate objective for Musk and the company is to plant the seeds to put a human colony on Mars, and he said last year that human landings on Mars could happen by 2024.

Coming off the back of the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket last month, Musk said that he hoped the rocket SpaceX would launch to Mars, the BFR, would create imitators.

“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”.

The Falcon Heavy as powerful as any other rocket currently in operation, but not the most powerful ever, that honour currently goes to the Saturn V, which carried astronauts up to the moon.

SpaceX's next rocket system, the BFR, will be more powerful than the Falcon Heavy, and the aim is for it to be fully reusable and allow for interplanetary travel, according to the company. Musk said he is “confident” that a such a flight would cost less than the initial SpaceX Falcon 1 launches, which he said cost between $5m and $6m

“What's amazing about the ship, assuming we can make full and rapid reusability work is that we can reduce the cost, marginal cost per flight, dramatically… It is the fundamental breakthrough that's needed,” Musk said.