Elon Musk says SpaceX is likely to begin testing an interplanetary rocket next year. And while it won’t be capable of getting anyone to Mars just yet, he said it would be able to do short up and down flights and have a lift-off thrust twice that of a Saturn 5, the NASA rocket at the heart of the Apollo program.
Musk, who also heads Tesla, is speaking at South by Southwest in Austin, where he’s talking about the concept of traveling to Mars. He said that while many people may view Martian expeditions as an “escape hatch for the rich,” in fact, it’s more like what Ernest Shackleton promised his Antarctic explorers: “It’ll be difficult, dangerous, and there’s a good chance you’ll die. Excitement, for those who will survive.”
He added that he’s optimistic about when SpaceX will be carrying out Mars missions, but noted that he’s often a bit overambitious in his hoped-for timelines.
Musk also said once SpaceX’s ship is built, he imagines it as a proofpoint for national space programs that will then “up their game and build interplanetary vehicles as well.”
And once people are on Mars, there will be an incredible need for entrepreneurial resources there, and it will be necessary to help all entrepreneurs flourish.