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Elon Musk flashes a smile during the StartmeupHK Festival in Hong Kong. (Credit: InvestHK via YouTube)

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says he has his heart set on going into space himself, perhaps in the next four or five years, and organize the first flights to Mars by 2025.

Musk’s travel timetable came out this week during Musk’s chat at the StartmeupHK Festival in Hong Kong. The 44-year-old billionaire said he’d unveil his detailed plan for sending settlers to Mars in September at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico. That means the SpaceX fans who have been buzzing about the Mars Colonial Transporter may have to just keep buzzing for another eight months or so.

The StartmeupHK talk was as wide-ranging as Musk’s interests, which take in electric cars (as Tesla Motors’ CEO), solar power (as Solar City’s chairman) and the potential uses and misuses of artificial intelligence (as a backer of the OpenAI foundation). That’s all in addition to his focus on spaceflight and humanity’s interplanetary future.

Musk introduced yet another theme: the prospects for creating brain-computer interfaces that would let you store and retrieve images and other information directly from implants in your head.

“You would never forget anything,” he said. “You wouldn’t need to photograph.”

He’s not the first to come up with the idea, of course: Science-fiction author William Gibson spoke of such devices, which he called “microsofts,” in his 1984 novel “Neuromancer.” More recently, physicist Michio Kaku predicted the eventual rise of an interconnected “Brain-Net” in a book titled “The Future of the Mind.” The fact that Musk is talking about the concept could get still more people talking about it.

In the shorter term, SpaceX is working hard to make its Dragon 2 space capsule suitable for sending astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of next year. Musk said he’d like to take a ride as well, “maybe four or five years from now.”

“Maybe going to the space station would be nice,” he told the session’s moderator, CNN International’s Kristie Lu Stout. Then Musk said he was hoping to start flights to Mars around 2025.

“Oh my goodness, that’s just around the corner,” Stout said.

“Well, nine years,” Musk replied. “Seems like a long time to me.”

When Stout asked whether Musk had gone through zero-G training, he replied that he’s experienced weightlessness on parabolic flights.

“But you must be reading up and doing the physical testing to get ready for the ultimate flight of your life,” Stout said.

“Ummm, I don’t think it’s that hard, honestly,” Musk said. “Just float around … it’s not that hard to float around.”

If you’re a SpaceX fan, you’ll enjoy the show, beginning at around the 27:45 mark in the YouTube video:

Hat tip to Ars Technica’s Eric Berger.

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