"I think we'll be able to do short flights, up and down flights sometime in the first half of next year", he declared at the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Texas.
He said it was vital humans reached the Red Planet before the next "probable" world war. Musk actually brought up his sometimes overly-ambitious timelines, saying he does have a habit of making them appear a little bit too rosy.
'I think once we build it we'll have a point of proof something that other companies and countries can go and do.
This fear of AI is also part of the reason Musk wants us to colonize Mars - He fears the Earth might experience a "Dark Age".
More pressing to Mr Musk, and the investors that enable him, might be the backlog of orders for the Model 3, Tesla's "affordable" new vehicle.
For this writer, it transports her back to her office building in downtown Orlando, standing atop of the parking structure, watching the countdown and launch live before looking up seconds later to see the Falcon Heavy rocketing up through the sky.
Musk spoke at length about his role as an entrepreneur with SpaceX and electric auto maker Tesla Inc, his concerns about advancements in artificial intelligence ("It scares the hell out of me") and the need to put a price on carbon emissions in order to develop a sustainable energy system. From there, he said he hopes for an explosion of entrepreneurial opportunity from iron foundries to pizza joints and even great bars, which he joked would be called the "Mars Bar".
"What's unbelievable about the ship, assuming we can make full and rapid reusability work is that we can reduce the cost, marginal cost per flight, dramatically, by orders of magnitude compared to where it is today", Musk said. He added, "Mark my words, AI is far more unsafe than nukes".
Still, Musk admitted the first humans to dare make the trip will be risking a lot.
"Some AI experts think they know more than they do and they think they're smarter than they are. this tends to plague smart people, they define themselves by their intelligence and they don't like the idea that a machine can be way smarter than them so they just discount the idea, which is fundamentally flawed". And if he doesn't try and get us to Mars, who will?More news: Android 9.0 P is Neat: Screenshots + New Features