Elon Musk predicts humans will be on Mars in 6 years

NASA wants to return to the moon in 2024, but Elon Musk is thinking bigger than that -- he thinks humans can be on Mars by 2026. 

Speaking at an awards ceremony from Axel Springer on Tuesday, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said he expects astronauts to land on the Red Planet in approximately six years, adding he is "fairly confident" in that timeline.

"The Earth-Mars synchronization occurs roughly every 26 months," Musk said. "We had one this year in the summer and that means in roughly about two years, there will be another one and two years after that. I think if you said, 'six years from now,' I'd say highly confident, and if we get lucky, maybe four years."

"We want to send an uncrewed vehicle there in two years," Musk added.

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In October, Musk said he thought SpaceX's first mission to Mars could happen by 2024 but added that was "only a guess."

Musk, 49, was also asked when his first trip to orbit would happen, with the tech exec responding "possibly in two or three years."

"I'm obviously concerned with developing the technology that can enable a lot of people to go to Mars and make life multiplanetary, have a base on the moon, a city on Mars," Musk told Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer SE. "I think it's important that we strive to have a self-sustaining city on Mars as soon as possible. I'm optimistic about the future on Earth, but I think it's important to have life insurance for life as a whole."

At the conference, Musk definitively said that he has had COVID-19, confirming what many suspected when he skipped last month's historic SpaceX launch.

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In 2015, Musk discussed putting a city on Mars after a successful rocket landing by SpaceX. NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Musk published a paper in June 2017 on making humanity a multiplanetary species, laying out plans for having as many as 1 million people on Mars.

In 2016, Musk laid out an ambitious plan to put human life on Mars.

Two years later, in 2018, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said there was a "70% chance" he would move to Mars but with the caveat that there was a "good chance" of dying on the way to the Red Planet.

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