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Elon Musk sets 4-year timeline for SpaceX Mars mission, says there's a 'fighting chance'

The timelines are 'only guesses,' but Musk is determined to see his team achieve them

Elon Musk has said he could see a 4-year timeline for SpaceX's first Mars mission. 

SpaceX founder and CEO Musk spoke at length on Friday during the International Mars Society Convention via Zoom. Musk discussed the timeline his company is following for its first uncrewed mission to Mars, saying that the company is on track to launch the mission in as little as four years. 

"I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window," Musk said, which would put a launch in 2024. 

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He said that making that launch date would require the development team to innovate more and that the company will "probably lose a few ships." 

The company is trying to develop Starship, which is designed to carry dozens of people on long-range flight so that it would be possible to colonize Mars. Starship will be "the world's most powerful launch vehicle ever developed," according to the SpaceX website

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Prototype vehicles have so far made low-altitude "hops" from the SpaceX test facility in Texas, CNET reported

The company may also be able to demonstrate orbital refueling capabilities by as soon as 2022, which will allow test flights to the moon. 

"These are just guesses," Musk cautioned, however. 

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Additionally, SpaceX has no plans to develop any bases on Mars, Space.com reported. The company is concerned only with transportation, with its goal to ferry cargo and crew to Mars - someone else will need to develop the means of colonization.