SpaceX Mars ship could make short test flights in '19 - Musk

Elon Musk, the owner of the SpaceX rocket business and Tesla Motors electric vehicle operation, told delegates to the South by South West (SXSW) technology show in Austin, Texas, that both SpaceX and Tesla are alive by "the skin of their teeth" such were the financial challenges for both privately-held businesses.

"I can tell you that we are building the first ship, the first Mars interplanetary ship right now", Musk told a crowd at the conference in Austin, Texas.

Musk admitted that his timelines can sometimes be a little off - he first launched SpaceX in the early 2000s with similar promises which took a decade to come to fruition. "I think we will be able to do short flights, short up and down flights, probably in the first half of next year".

After successfully launching his auto into space with the first test of his Falcon Heavy rocket, Elon Musk and SpaceX have turned their attention to even bigger things.

He said at the time that he hoped a BFR will land on Mars in 2022, and the first missions will send cargo, CNN reported. He said that the BFR will be the point of proof, and he expects other companies or countries to begin building their own interplanetary spacecraft.

"They now don't think it's possible so that if we show them that it is, then I think that they will up their game and they will build interplanetary transport vehicles, as well", Musk, 46, said. He said the future settlement will need "fundamentals without which you cannot survive", such as power stations and blast domes where crops can be grown. But, Musk said, eventually new opportunities will arise because there will be demand on the planet for everything from "iron foundries" to "bars" and "pizza joints".

The company's goal is to kick-start a drive by humans to colonise Mars.

Vanessa Coleman