Billionaire businessman Elon Musk has said that his company SpaceX will be ready to fly its Mars rocket in 2019, ahead of the planned Mars mission in 2022, coinciding with NASA's simultaneous mission to the moon.
"We are building the first ship, or interplanetary ship, right now," said Musk on Sunday at ongoing SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. "And we'll probably be able to do short flights, short up and down flights, during the first half of next year."
The much-hyped Mars rocket, called BFR or Big Falcon Rocket, was announced last year as the one that could one day fly people from city to city on Earth at incredibly short timespan, say in just 30 minutes from New York to Shanghai.
Elon Musk said his ultimate goal is to land BFR on Mars in 2022 with cargo, to be followed by human mission sometime later. The SpaceX founder is hoping to establish a self-sustaining colony on the Red Planet a decade later.
Elon Musk's ambitious Mars colonization mission has some strong supporters around the globe including Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to be sent to the International Space Station (ISS).
"Humans on Mars - I think will be the late 2030s," Peake was quoted as telling express.co.uk recently. "That's what the government space agencies and the International Space Exploration Group are working towards. It could be that some of the programs bring that date forward. But, the late 2030s would be a realistic time frame. What could throw a big bowling ball through all that is commercial space flight," Peake noted.
Already, the Deep Space Gateway -- a space station project led by the ISS partners, including NASA, European Space Agency and Roscosmos -- is planning lunar landings and use it as a threshold for manned Mars mission. "The Deep Space Gateway paves the way for both lunar landings and, because of the orbit it will be in, for a Mars transportation system," Peake said.
(With inputs from agencies)