Elon Musk makes surprise visit to SXSW - Talks Mars ship progress

While Mars missions are the ultimate goal, it should also be capable of return trips to the Moon (with in-space refueling) and space station resupply missions. While taking questions from his friend, Jonathan Nolan, Musk covered a whole range of topics, from A.I.to the source of his inspiration. "There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning". Musk, who is the founder of multiple companies, including SpaceX, Tesla and the Boring Company, is tackling some of the biggest challenges and technological advances of the modern age, like space travel and autonomous vehicles.

The Q&A comes after Musk's unexpected cameo (or, technically, his crashing) of HBO's Westworld panel on March 10, where he discussed the sci-fi show's themes while ruminating on inspiration and why it's so crucial to balance out "the negative things in the world".

It's easy to be skeptical about the early 2019 target, and not just because of Musk's historically overambitious schedules.

It was Musk's long-range plan for sending settlers to Mars that took up most of the attention. "If the fourth launch had failed, we would have been dead", he said. "We are building the first ship, the first interplanetary ship right now, and I think we will be able to do short flights, short sort of up and down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year", he said. Musk did talk at great length about his well-known fear of artificial intelligence.

Whether an AI-induced third World War is what drives us off the planet, he didn't say. "We have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital superintelligence is one which is symbiotic with humanity".

But hey, the salvation of humanity might just come with Martian pizza joints.

  • Valerie Cook