"I think we'll be able to do short flights, short up-and-down flights, sometime in the first half of next year", he told screenwriter and director Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher, onstage.
He said it was vital humans reached the Red Planet before the next "probable" world war.
But, aware of his reputation, he added: "Sometimes my timelines are a little. y'know".
'More dangerous than nukes': Elon Musk still firm on regulatory oversight of AI
He also warned that a colony on Mars wouldn't be an "escape hatch for rich people", but rather a new frontier.
Pointing to AlphaGo and its predecessor AlphaGo Zero, Musk said AI is capable of vastly more than anyone knows, and said the rate of improvement is also exponential. Today he specifically cited the risk of a Third World War and its aftermath.
While his projects such as Tesla's Model 3 "affordable" new auto have been dogged by delays, he's become the driving force behind a new space race. "Most likely, the form of government on Mars would be somewhat of a direct democracy", he said, with settlers having a direct vote on individual issues.
Paralympics 2018: Google Doodle showcases the conviction of differently abled athletes
Greg Westlake led Team Canada to the gold medal at the Torino Games in 2016 and bronze at the Sochi Games in 2014. The North's athletes may also have not been keen to march alongside a defector.
Musk spoke at length about his role as an entrepreneur with SpaceX and electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc, his concerns about advancements in artificial intelligence ("It scares the hell out of me") and the need to put a price on carbon emissions in order to develop a sustainable energy system.
"Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs".
Browns trade former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer to Packers
Kizer had an NFL-high 22 interceptions as well as nine fumbles (six lost) in his first season. "I believe in Brett Hundley . The teams also swapped picks in the fourth and fifth rounds, meaning the Packers moved to the top of those rounds.
"No one predicted that rate of improvement", Musk said. "Once we have it, we'll have a sort-of point of proof, something that other countries and companies will go and do", he said.
In response to those who have dismissed his doomsay concerns, Musk had this to say: "Mark my words, AI is far more risky than nukes".
Today's conversation ranged over all things Musk - from SpaceX and Tesla, to The Boring Company, Neuralink and the billionaire's concerns about artificial superintelligence. "I think that's the single biggest existential crisis that we face".
Steve Bannon mulls purchasing online news site to espouse his populist views
This week Le Pen appeared heartened by the strong gains made by the allied anti-immigrant League party in Italy's election. She bowed out of politics after her aunt's presidential defeat, but is expected to come back in a new role.
Artist's rendering of U.S. astronaut planting a flag on Mars.