The SpaceX and Tesla founder made the bold claim at the virtual International Mars Society Convention, which took place yesterday, October 16. This was the first time he had spoken at the event since 2012.

During the convention, Musk was asked ‘the question everyone wants to know’ – when he plans on sending a ship to Mars.

The Mars Society/YouTube
The Mars Society/YouTube

Speaking about his future plans for Starship, Musk explained:

We’re obviously adventuring into unknown terriority, so it’s not as though I have all these secret dates and, you know, just keeping them from people. But, this are just guesses obviously.

I’d say I’m 80-90% confident we will reach orbit with Starship next year. I’d say I’m 50-60% confident we’ll be able to bring the ship and booster back – that’s more of a dicey situation. We’ll probably lose a few ships before we get the atmospheric return and landing right. Hopefully we don’t lose a lot of boosters because that’s a lot of engines.

Musk continued that SpaceX hopes to do ‘high-volume flights’ in a couple of years, and dubbed it ‘essential’ that their rate of innovation increases, because otherwise SpaceX won’t reach Mars.

For those of you who don’t have a business degree and therefore have no idea what innovation rate is, the definition given by LEAD Innovation Management reads, ‘[Innovation rate] represents your innovation activity in relation to your sales. And it also shows whether your new developments are successful on the market or not, because it measures the sales you already achieved with the innovations.’

NASA - MARS
NASA – MARS

On the basis SpaceX’s rate of innovation does increase, Musk said, ‘We could maybe send an uncrewed mission [to Mars] in maybe four years.’

Convention watchers were then offered the chance to ask Musk questions, with one person asking where he thought would be best on Mars to land.

He replies with, ‘I’m not sure, but I can tell you the criteria that you’d want.’ Musk then goes on to give the ‘short answer’ of ‘mid-latitudes probably on the north’ that are close to ice and not too far away from the Sun.

While SpaceX is planning a potential trip to Mars, NASA is considering sending a mission to Venus following the discovery of possible signs of alien life on the planet.

The discovery made by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University and her team found rare molecules in Venus’s clouds that suggested colonies of living microbes have been living in an oxygen-free environment.

You can watch Musk’s full Mars Society Convention talk below

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