A Base on Mars? It Could Happen by 2028, Elon Musk Says

SpaceX's Mars Base Alpha
An artist's illustration showing SpaceX BFR spaceships standing at the Red Planet outpost "Mars Base Alpha." (Image credit: SpaceX)

Humanity could have an outpost on Mars just a decade from now, Elon Musk said.

Musk's company SpaceX is building a huge, reusable rocket-spaceship duo called the BFR to help our species explore and settle Earth's moon, Mars and other worlds throughout the solar system.

The billionaire entrepreneur's long-term vision involves the establishment of a million-person city on the Red Planet in the next 50 to 100 years. But we could get the founding infrastructure of such a settlement — an outpost Musk calls Mars Base Alpha — up and running much sooner than that, he said. [The BFR in Images: SpaceX's Giant Spaceship for Mars & Beyond]

"Probably 2028 for a base to be built," Musk said on Twitter Friday (Sept. 21), in response to a question about when Mars Base Alpha could graduate from artistic rendering to reality.

Musk's timelines are famously aggressive, and a lot would have to go right to hit that 2028 target. After all, the BFR (which stands for "Big Falcon Rocket") is still in the development phase. The first orbital flights of the 100-passenger spaceship and its giant booster probably won't come until 2020 or 2021 at the earliest, Musk said last week during an event at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Neither Musk nor Maezawa revealed how much the latter is paying for the flight (though Maezawa did confirm that the artists will fly for free — he bought all the seats). But Musk said Maezawa has already made a substantial down payment and that his purchase is a big help in defraying the BFR's development costs. Those expenses will probably run around $5 billion when all is said and done, Musk said Friday.

"This has done a lot to restore my faith in humanity — that somebody's willing to do this — to take their money and help fund this new program that's risky, might not succeed [and] is dangerous," Musk said. "He is ultimately helping to pay for the average citizen to be able to travel to other planets. It's a great thing."

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.