RANCHOS PALOS VERDES, California — Elon Musk is starting to narrow down his Mars mission plan.
Speaking at the annual Code Conference, the SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said he plans on starting with Mars cargo deliveries as early as 2018. He wants to send his Dragon Version 2, which is about the size of an SUV and can seat seven, to Mars in 2018, but that won't carry humans just yet since it currently has no way of getting back home.
The road map for human travel to Mars is a bit further out.
"If things go according to plan, [we] should be able to launch people by 2024 with arrival in 2025," said Musk.
Musk noted that in order to build growing cities on Mars — putting his multi-planet species idea in action — SpaceX will need to develop the ability to transport larger numbers of people and millions of pounds of hardware.
Even without hauling that much, Musk noted that the rocket required to get people to Mars will have to be really big.
The so-called "Falcon Heavy" is "the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two," said Musk.
The rocket is designed to transport humans to space with missions to the moon or Mars in mind and is expected to make its first test flight later this year from the same launch pad as where NASA launched Apollo 11.
Musk also talked a bit about why it's so important for SpaceX to retrieve the rocket boosters, something they've now done repeatedly on both land and in a small platform in the sea. First of all, each one costs between $30 million and $35 million.
"Think of a pile of cash hurtling through the atmosphere, imagine it was going to burn up and smash into pieces. Wouldn't you try to save it?"
When will Musk go to Mars? He would only say "at some point," but did reveal that he hopes to finally get into space himself in four or five years.
Still, SpaceX has a long way to go before Musk can hitch a ride to Mars aboard a Dragon.
The company has yet to fly any people to space, but that could change in the next couple years, assuming funding holds.
SpaceX currently has a contract to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, with crewed missions expected to start at the end of 2017.