Elon Musk says SpaceX will make ‘short flights’ to Mars next year

To Mars...and beyond?

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Sunday that he plans to send a rocket to Mars by 2019.

“We are building the first ship, or interplanetary ship, right now,” Musk said during a surprise Q&A session at South by Southwest.

“And we'll probably be able to do short flights, short up and down flights, during the first half of next year.”

Last year, Musk said he hoped to land his Big Falcon Rocket on Mars in 2022, so the timeframe has moved up considerably, even though he even admitted to being optimistic.

RELATED: NASA-released photos of Mars

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NASA releases new photos of Mars
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NASA releases new photos of Mars

Edge of North Polar Erg Dubbed Windy City

(NASA)

Landforms at West End of Her Desher Vallis 

(NASA)

Small Tributary Deposit and Transverse Aeolian Ridges in Nirgal Vallis 

(NASA)

Gullies in Dunes Dubbed Kolhar

(NASA)

Dunes Dubbed Tleilax 

(NASA)

Gully Monitoring 

(NASA)

Terrain Near Peneus Patera 

(NASA)

Clean Exposures of Light-Toned Chaos Blocks in Gorgonum Chaos

(NASA)

Syria Planum Bedform and Albedo Changes 

(NASA)

Variety of Spider Features 

(NASA)

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While the tech icon has frequently been forced to deny plans to name himself ruler of the red planet, he already has ideas for “entrepreneurial opportunit(ies)” including “iron foundries and pizza joints.”

He also warned that a colony on Mars wouldn’t be an “escape hatch for rich people,” but rather a new frontier.

“For the early people that go to Mars, it will be far more dangerous,” he said. “It kind of reads like (Ernest) Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers: Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.”

RELATED: A look at the SpaceX Falcon rocket

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SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket blasts off from Florida
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SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket blasts off from Florida
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - FEBRUARY 05: The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket sits on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center as it is prepared for tomorrow's lift-off on February 5, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket, which is the most powerful rocket in the world, is scheduled to make its maiden flight between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. tomorrow. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018.
Vapor rises before the scheduled launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy takes off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on February 6, 2018, on its demonstration mission. The world's most powerful rocket, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, blasted off Tuesday on its highly anticipated maiden test flight, carrying CEO Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla roadster to an orbit near Mars. Screams and cheers erupted at Cape Canaveral, Florida as the massive rocket fired its 27 engines and rumbled into the blue sky over the same NASA launchpad that served as a base for the US missions to Moon four decades ago. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket trails smoke after lifting off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
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