“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,” said Musk. “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."
Musk is known for his wildly optimistic projections with regards to launches -- not only with SpaceX, but also with the more Earth-centric Tesla -- and he acknowledged his tendencies and the criticism that comes with it. "People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, so I’m trying to recalibrate to some degree here," Musk added.
The endgame for Musk is to actually colonize Mars, and he will be using the Big F--king Rocket, or BFR, to accomplish this goal. If you thought that Falcon Heavy was immense and powerful, the BFR absolutely dwarfs other historic launch systems. The BFR is estimated to have twice the liftoff thrust of the famed Saturn V that helped put astronauts on the moon, and will be reusable, helping to lower costs.
"This question of reusability is so fundamental to rocketry. It is the fundamental breakthrough that's needed," said Musk.
Musk fully expects that interplanetary costs will be relatively low for BFR, coming in at $5 to $6 million, which will help to make sending supplies and eventually humans to colonize Mars a reality.
"A BFR flight will actually cost less than our Falcon I flight did, back in the day We're confident BFR will be less than that. That's profound, and that is what will enable the creation of a permanent base on the Moon and a city on Mars."
Musk plans to send the first cargo to Mars using BFR by 2022 and will hopefully put the first humans on the Red Planet two years later. But given Musk’s track record when it comes to these sorts of things, we should probably tack on a few years (at least) to each of those deadlines.