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SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Friday the company has a "fighting chance" of sending its Starship rocket to Mars in 2024 — two years later than hoped.
During Mars Society's 2020 virtual conference, Musk said SpaceX could send an unmanned Starship rocket, which is currently in its prototype stage, to Mars in 2024 provided it sees "exponential improvement in our rate of innovation."
He later said this date was only a "guess."
SpaceX has completed two successful "hop" tests of the rocket at the company's Texas facility, where it was launched hundreds of feet into the air before returning back to Earth.
The rocket is designed to hold as many as 100 passengers and carry heavy payloads.
Musk also told the Mars Society he was "80% to 90% confident" the aerospace giant will reach orbit next year with the rocket.
He said he was "50% to 60% confident" that SpaceX will be able to bring the rocket and booster back after it reaches orbit — but said "we'll probably lose a few ships before we get the atmospheric return and landing right."
Musk told Mars Society President Robert Zubrin over Zoom that his estimated dates for the Starship mission "are just guesses."
"It's not like I have all these secret dates and I'm just keeping them from people," the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said.
Many of Musk's promised timelines over the years have been missed.
Musk said in February 2019 he was "certain" Tesla would make self-driving vehicles by the end of 2019. Tesla is due to release a beta version of its "Full Self-Driving" feature this month to some drivers.
Musk said in 2015 the company's vehicles would be driverless by 2017.
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