SpaceX wants to build a human settlement on Mars, and it could arrive before the end of the next decade. CEO Elon Musk revealed over the weekend that the company’s famed rendering, which shows a series of BFR rockets stationed on the red planet alongside roads and a more permanent base, could become reality by 2028.

It’s a big update on the company’s Mars settlement plans, which Musk explained in detail at the International Astronautical Congress a year ago. Musk said he plans to send two unmanned BFRs in 2022, followed by two more unmanned BFRs and two manned BFRs in 2024, in a timetable he described as “ambitious.” Earlier this month, the CEO announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa would take six to eight artists around the moon on the BFR in 2023, but while the new project appeared to coincide with the proposed Mars missions, Musk’s latest post confirms the company is still pressing ahead to move fast with its Mars plans

The concept image of a future Mars settlement.
The concept image of a future Mars settlement.

The six-ship fleet would serve as the starting point for a more ambitious colony. The BFR uses 31 Raptor engines powered by liquid oxygen and methane to ensure humans visiting Mars can refuel using natural resources and return home. Each ship would carry 100 tons of supplies, initially serving as the humans’ homes. The passengers would be tasked with extracting around one tonne of ice per day, becoming self-sufficient and returning home with the harvested fuel.

This animation shows what the growth of a Mars base might look like.

This initial project would lay the foundations for something bigger. Paul Wooster, principal Mars development engineer for SpaceX, said earlier this month that “the idea would be to expand out, start off not just with an outpost, but grow into a larger base, not just like there are in Antarctica, but really a village, a town, growing into a city and then multiple cities on Mars.” These cities would offer habitats, greenhouses, life support, and enable new experiments that answer some of the biggest questions around the red planet.

SpaceX is actively developing the BFR for these missions. At the lunar mission announcement, Musk confirmed that the company plans “hop tests” of a few hundred kilometers at the Boca Chica, Texas, facility, as early as next year.

Mars is just the beginning, though. Musk explained at the same event that the BFR is “really intended as an interplanetary transport system that’s capable of getting from Earth to anywhere in the solar system as you establish propellant depots along the way.” 👉 Sign up for Musk Reads, the Inverse newsletter on the latest in the world of SpaceX.

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