The SpaceX CEO made the comments talking to podcaster Lex Fridman. Mr Fridman asked Mr Musk for an estimation of how long it would take to reach the Red Planet, to which Mr Musk replied: "Best case is about five years, worst case 10 years."
The estimate is based, Mr Musk said, on factors such as "engineering" the SpaceX Starship that would take humans there. He also claimed that "Starship is the most complex and advanced rocket that’s ever been made."
He continued: "The fundamental optimization of Starship is minimizing the cost per ton to orbit and ultimately cost per ton to the surface of Mars.”
"There is a certain cost per ton to the surface of Mars where we can afford to establish a self-sustaining city, and above that we cannot afford to do it.
"Right now you couldn’t fly to Mars for a trillion dollars; no amount of money could get you a ticket to Mars. So we need to get that above, you know, to get that [to] something that is actually possible at all."
Mr Musk also predicted that Earth will get “too hot for life” in approximately 500 million years, but said that it was “wise for us to act quickly … just in case”.
SpaceX is reportedly facing financial trouble with regards to the Raptor engines that powers Starship. “The Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago,” Musk wrote to SpaceX employees last month, in an email obtained by CNBC.
“We face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year,” Musk also said. SpaceX did not provide comment to either CNBC or The Independent when asked.
The billionaire believes that terraforming - blasting the planet with nuclear weapons at its poles to cause the ice caps to melt and induce accelerated warming – will be a key component to live on other planets.
“Life in glass domes at first. Eventually, terraformed to support life, like Earth,” he has said. “Terraforming will be too slow to be relevant in our lifetime. However, we can establish a human base there in our lifetime. At least a future spacefaring civilization – discovering our ruins – will be impressed humans got that far."