Elon Musk Will Launch Private Missions to Mars as Early as 2018
Recently, billionaire Elon Musk, head of the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX, said on Twitter that he has plans to send its robotic Dragon capsule to Mars as early as 2018. “Red Dragons will inform the overall Mars architecture,” SpaceX representatives tweeted. These initial expeditions to the Red Planet will have the purpose to properly analyze and see first hand what technologies are needed to land large payloads on Mars. SpaceX intends to send manned missions and form a colony over there, somewhere around the 2030’s.
These initial materials to be sent will include supplies and habitats for future Martian explorers. In addition, SpaceX intends to reveal details of its colonization architecture later this year. “Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight,” Musk tweeted. “But wouldn’t recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region. Wouldn’t be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV.”
In November 2015, SpaceX released a video showing its Dragon V2 capsule — the crewed version of the spacecraft — during a hover test, meant to demonstrate how the capsule would gently lower itself down onto the surface of a distant world.
Last year, a group of NASA scientists explored the possibility of a Red Dragon mission, in which a SpaceX capsule could be used to pick up the rock and soil samples that will be collected by the agency’s Mars 2020 rover, and return them to Earth for further study. That mission has not been approved by NASA, nor has SpaceX confirmed that it would participate.
In January 2015, during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, Musk said that plans for the company’s “Mars Colonial Transporter” — the spaceflight system that will take humans to and from the Red Planet — would be released by the end of the year, but that has not yet happened. The company is currently developing a rocket called the Falcon Heavy, which the company says will have the capacity to carry humans and cargo to deep-space destinations, even Mars.