Speed Reads

Think Fast

Elon Musk shows off plans to get anywhere on Earth in less than an hour

Nobody has ever accused Elon Musk of thinking too small. At the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, on Thursday night, Musk, wearing his SpaceX hat, talked about his plans to land a rocket on Mars as soon as 2022, to lay the groundwork for human colonies. The date is "aspirational," he acknowledged. But "I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for launch in about five years. Five years seems like a long time to me." He envisioned two crewed flights in 2024, building the beginning of a human colony.

"If you build a ship that's capable of flying to Mars," Musk said at the end of his talk, "what if you take that same ship and go from one place to another on Earth?" You could get anywhere on Earth in less than an hour, he said, usually within half an hour. Musk did not give a timeline for that potential project, but he showed this concept video.

Musk is known for his "hugely optimistic timelines," notes Ina Fried at Axios, so take 2022 "with a grain of salt." But rocketing from New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes? You can at least bet there won't be in-flight movies.