While the naive but perfectly valid question Are they building on mars or do they have a camp there? was closed and overly downvoted, I think my answer there was reasonable; the perception by the lay public that people are going to be camped on Mars any day now was probably fueled in part by the Mars One "scam" as astronaut Chris Hadfield is quoted there calling it.

But this comment suggested that just because of that it doesn't mean that there aren't somewhat credible plans to move people there in the works:

I think you are aware of Starship. SpaceX is currently building and testing prototypes of a spacecraft capable of landing 100+ t on Mars, and plan on starting a colonization project within the next few synods. And the robotic probes around and on the surface of Mars are a valuable source of information guiding their efforts.

I just checked out Ars Technica's Inside Elon Musk’s plan to build one Starship a week—and settle Mars. The article is longish and explores several aspects of the reality of the effort, and contains nine instances of the words "fast" or "faster".

Theres not much on the expected timeline though, except for this nugget:

“I’ll probably be long dead before Mars becomes self-sustaining, but I’d like to at least be around to see a bunch of ships land on Mars,” Musk said.

Question: Have SpaceX, Elon Musk, or other at least fairly authoritative scholars of this effort said anything more specific about roughly how long it will be before this work will result in people landing on Mars and setting up camp?

Potentially helpful: Ars Technica's SpaceX releases a Payload User’s Guide for its Starship rocket

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not sure what the downvote is for. He's asking for an "authoritative" answer. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 2:26
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I guess the biggest problem would be to choose which authoritative answer. E.g. Elon Musk is giving a different authoritative answer every time he gives an authoritative answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag if you can post a few in a short answer and demonstrate significant mutual conflicts, then you've probably demonstrated that the answer to my question is "No." $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ To add fuel to the speculative fire, a high official @ NASA told me nine months ago (summer 2019) that, if an Artemis manned lunar landing takes place sometime in 2024, this may put NASA on track for a 2030 manned mission to the Martian surface... $\endgroup$
    – Digger
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


In Inverse's article SpaceX's Mars Plans for the coming years are revealed, with therein several links to other articles on the website of this media company about this enterprise, and lots of quotes from Elon Musk.

In 2017 he suggested that in 2022 two unmanned ships could take their way to Mars that would place power, mining and life support infrastructure for future flights.
However, in 2019 Elon Musk tweeted that the Moon will be the first mission for the Starship, so now its likely that the first way to Mars with those ships will be in 2024.
As a result, 2026 would become the year to send two cargoships alongside two crew ships taking the first people to Mars.
They will be tasked with setting up a propellant production plant (PPP), and with collecting one tonne of ice every day to fuel the plant.

Because in 2026 the launch window for Mars is at the end of that year, the arrival at the planet would be mid 2027.

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    $\begingroup$ That's...optimistic. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I would not consider SpaceX's or Musk's visions for the far future (>2 years) "authoritative" as they are constantly in flux and changing--and the company admits it too. Even now, it is essentially useless to ask or search for starship specifics because it's already been shown that critical parts of the design (diameter, size, engine count, etc.) are frequently changed on an almost monthly basis. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ OMG, what a funny tale. And just how SpaceX would get profit (even worse, not go bankrupt) from this unless a huge pile of governmental money were thrown to this bonfire? $\endgroup$
    – OON
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 1:37
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    $\begingroup$ Since OP explicitly noted to accept Elon Musk's authority, I think this answer gives exactly what was asked. It would be nice to have a bit "less optimistic" (intentional understatement) review of what is expected to be possible included in the answer, but I am not sure if anyone is willing to seriously spend time on this. My opinion is there are too many unknowns involved for anyone to attempt to predict anything reliable. $\endgroup$
    – Suma
    Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 18:37

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