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Elon Musk says there's a '70 percent' chance he will make the trip to Mars

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Mars may not be the kind of place you raise your kids, as goes the Elton John song “Rocket Man.”

But that isn’t stopping SpaceX founder and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk from potentially making the trip.

The first flight to Mars will likely happen in seven years, Musk said Sunday night on “Axios,” the news site’s half-hour HBO TV series. That’s a bit faster than NASA’s timeline of 25 years.

Musk, 47, says there’s a “70 percent chance” he will take a flight to Mars in his lifetime.

The cost will be “a couple hundred thousand dollars,” he said. But don’t think of this as some rich man’s joyride.

Mars travelers will have a probability of dying on the Red Planet that’s “much higher than Earth,” he said. “You might land successfully. Once you get there, you will be working nonstop to build the base. So there’s not much time for leisure even after all this. It’s a very harsh environment. There’s a good chance you die there. We think you can come back, but we’re not sure. Now does that sound like an escape hatch for rich people?”

More: Elon Musk: SpaceX Mars spaceships ready by next year

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More: Bill Nye: We are not going to live on Mars, let alone turn it into Earth

Think of the Mars trip in terms of how people climb mountains such as Mount Everest “for the challenge,” he said.

Musk also talked about the hurdles Tesla faced in the last year, saying the electric car company faced a “severe threat of death” in its inability to ramp up production of the Model 3.

“Essentially, the company was bleeding money like crazy and if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period of time, we would die,” said Musk, who said he worked seven days a week, often sleeping in the factory. “It was extremely difficult to solve them.”

In recent months, Musk has had to deal with additional controversy. He agreed to relinquish his Tesla chairmanship for at least three years and pay a $20 million fine after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of securities fraud. That stemmed from an what the SEC called a “false and misleading” statement when he tweeted that the company had enough funding to go private.

Much of the “Axios” segment focused on the debate over artificial intelligence. Musk has been among the prominent voices airing concerns about AI development without proper consideration and oversight. He mentioned the potential for AI-driven fleets of assassin drones and AI-produced propaganda.

“I think we should try to take the set of actions that are most likely to make the future good for humanity,” he said.

More: Elon Musk’s SEC deal is a win for Tesla buyers, but could put a dent in his reputation

More: Elon Musk: Artificial intelligence battle ‘most likely cause’ of WWIII

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider. 

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