Humans Could Land on Mars in 5 to 10 Years, if Elon Musk Has His Way

SpaceX and Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk has stated that he plans to land humans on Mars within five to 10 years.

Musk's comments came during an appearance on an episode of the Lex Friedman Podcast released Tuesday.

"When do you think SpaceX will land a human being on Mars?" host Lex Friedman asked Musk, the richest man in the world, worth an estimated $278 billion.

The South African-born tech mogul paused for over 10 seconds before finally answering, "best case is about five years, worst case 10 years."

Friedman followed up by inquiring about "the deterring factors ... from an engineering perspective" in terms of landing humans on the Red Planet.

"It's fundamentally engineering the vehicle," Musk replied. "I mean, Starship is the most complex and advanced rocket that's ever been made ... it's a lot. It's really next level."

"The fundamental optimization of Starship is minimizing the cost per ton per orbit and ultimately cost per ton to the surface of Mars," he added.

The vehicle to which Musk was referring, the SpaceX Starship, is "designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond," according to SpaceX's website. When completed, the spacecraft will be "the world's most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit."

This past May, Starship completed its fifth high-altitude test flight, and a fly-by mission to the moon in 2023 is scheduled to be the first private lunar mission.

Mars Mockup
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has stated that he intends to land humans on Mars within the next five to 10 years. However, he did admit that the extraordinary cost of a manned Mars mission was continuing to cause challenges. iStock/Getty

However, despite the recent advancements seen with the Starship, Musk maintained that the biggest hindrance continues to be the sheer cost of a six-month journey to Mars, as well as establishing a permanent outpost on the planet.

"There is a certain cost per ton to the surface of Mars where we can afford to establish a self-sustaining city, and above that we cannot afford to do it," Musk told Friedman.

"Right now you couldn't fly to Mars for a trillion dollars; no amount of money could get you a ticket to Mars. So we need to get that above, you know, to get that [to] something that is actually possible at all."

However, Musk also reiterated his belief that the window to land humans on Mars was finally open.

"Earth probably gets too hot for life in about 500 million years. It's a long time but that's only 10 percent longer than Earth has been around," Musk continued. "Earth's been around 4 1/2 billion years, and this is the first time in 4 1/2 billion years that it's been possible to extend life beyond Earth."

"That window of opportunity may be open for a long time, and I hope it is, but it also may be open for a short time. I think it is wise for us to act quickly while the window is open, just in case."

However, Musk and SpaceX are not the only ones attempting to reach Mars in the near future, as the U.S. government continues to make a play for the Red Planet. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) landed a rover mission on the planet this past February, with an another mission planned for 2022.

NASA continues to move around its timeline for a manned Mars mission, but the administration has previously stated that it hopes to land humans on the martian surface by the 2030s.

China's space program has also stated its intentions to reach Mars by 2033.

Newsweek has reached out to SpaceX for comment.