ELON Musk believes humanity needs to establish a remote colony on Mars to safeguard the species against the threat of Earth devolving into a new Dark Age.

It's a grim outlook he thinks will be more likely if we see another world war.

From designing reusable rockets to ushering in the electric vehicle revolution, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO is known for his bold plans, and now we know why he is in such a hurry to get us to the Red Planet.

During a question-and-answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in the US earlier this week, Musk didn't mince his words about why he thinks becoming an interplanetary species is so vital.

"I'm not predicting that we're about to enter the Dark Ages, but there's some probability that we will, particularly if there's a third world war," he said.

Musk has long warned about the existential threat of artificial intelligence and clearly understands the stakes are getting higher with the rapid advance of technology.

"We want to make sure there's enough of a seed of human civilisation somewhere else to bring civilisation back and, perhaps, shorten the length of the dark ages," he continued.

His comments come as US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are reportedly preparing to meet for possible talks about nuclear weapons - two leaders known for their insecurity and unpredictability.

"It's important to get a self-sustaining base ideally on Mars, because Mars is far enough away from Earth that (if there's a war on Earth) the Mars base is more likely to survive than a moon base," Musk said.

Effectively, the planetary outpost would act as a fail-safe for the human population.

"I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important," he told the audience in Texas.

While there is no shortage of people putting their hand up to embark on the mission, Musk has frequently said members of the first group sent to establish a Mars colony will likely die.

"The moon and Mars are often thought of as some escape hatch for rich people, but it won't be that at all," he said.

"Really it kind of reads like Shackleton's ad for Antarctic explorers," he said, referencing the famous yet mysterious newspaper advert which supposedly sought to recruit brave adventurers to explore the Antarctic in the early 20th century.

"(It will be) difficult, dangerous, good chance you'll die, excitement for those who would survive," Musk warned.

Billionaire entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk speaks at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide. PETER PARKS
Billionaire entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk speaks at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide. PETER PARKS

While NASA is also working on plans to get humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s, last year in Australia Musk outlined how he thinks his company can help get the job done with the first cargo ships launching as early as 2022.

The claimed wowed the audience at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide in September, where he detailed the interplanetary transport system at the heart of his plan.

During the recent Q&A Musk said he thinks that SpaceX's interplanetary ship will "be able to do short flights, short sort of up and down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year."

Despite a raft of critics who believe such a is plan exceedingly ambitious and faces insurmountable obstacles in the near term, Musk has pressed on.

Last month, SpaceX pulled off a successful test flight of the world's most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, sending a red Tesla Roadster car toward an orbit near Mars.

The rocket was designed from the outset to carry humans and heavy payloads into space and the highly publicised success gives SpaceX the momentum to begin developing even larger rockets to fulfil Musk's lofty aspirations.

This still image taken from a SpaceX lifestream video shows
This still image taken from a SpaceX lifestream video shows "Starman" sitting in SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla roadster after the Falcon Heavy rocket delivered it into orbit around the Earth.

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