Elon Musk Worries SpaceX Won’t Get to Mars Before He Dies

An exhausted-looking Elon Musk said Monday he’s unsure his rocket companySpaceX will accomplish its foundational mission — getting to Mars — before he dies.

“If we don’t improve our pace of progress, I’m definitely going to be dead before we go to Mars,” Musk said at theSatellite 2020 conference in Washington. “If it’s taken us 18 years just to get ready to do the first people to orbit, we’ve got to improve our rate of innovation or, based on past trends, I am definitely going to be dead before Mars.”

The 48-year-old chief executive officer of bothTesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. downplayed the level of attention the latter company is paying to a potential initial public offering for Starlink, the satellite business within SpaceX. The plan for the business is to beam broadband to consumers who don’t have Internet, or struggle with slower service, starting this year.

“We’re thinking about that zero,” Musk said of a Starlink IPO, contradicting comments his president and chief operating officermade last month. “We need to make the thing work.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s COO, said at a private investor event last month in Miami that Starlink was likely to be spun out and taken public, without giving a time frame.

Musk, who started his keynote about 40 minutes late, said he was behind schedule because he was coming straight from Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX has been working onStarship, the next-generation launch vehicle he plans to use to eventually transport humans to Mars. He estimated the annual revenue opportunity related to the closely held company providing broadband is about $30 billion, about 10 times greater than the potential for its launch business.

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