SpaceX continues to express its interest in Mars.
The commercial space company has been very vocal about sending mankind to Mars within the next few decades, but now the company seems confident that it will land an unmanned spacecraft on the Martian surface by 2018 – just two years from now.
Planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018. Red Dragons will inform overall Mars architecture, details to come pic.twitter.com/u4nbVUNCpA— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2016
What spacecraft would they would be sending? – None other than their own Dragon 2 spacecraft, of course. It’s the spacecraft that has been getting all the attention because it lands with rockets, similarly to the Falcon 9 rockets SpaceX makes, rather than parachutes.
With the eight small rockets on the sides of the Dragon 2 spacecraft, the capsule is said to have the landing accuracy of a helicopter.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk refers to the landing on Mars as the “Red Dragon Mars” mission, and says on Twitter that the landing would mark the first testing point for the Dragon 2 spacecraft. In that very same Tweet, Musk notes that Dragon 2 is designed to be landed anywhere in our solar system.
But wouldn't recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region. Wouldn't be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2016
Because the test mission would be unmanned, it would likely have next to no significance apart from being a milestone and a scientific experiment. It would allow SpaceX to test its spacecraft in a real-world scenario, rather than in testing scenarios, and see to it that the spacecraft can do what it’s made to do before people actually ride in it.
The size of an SUV, Musk notes that the Dragon 2 is not a roomy spacecraft, and that the distance for humans would best be kept within the Earth/Moon region since there’s not really enough room for long-term space travel.
In a statement released by NASA yesterday, the United States space agency proposes that it would support the company’s plans of sending an unmanned Dragon 2 spacecraft to Mars for testing purposes by providing technical support.
It’s worth noting that both NASA and SpaceX share a mutual interest in some day having astronauts living on the Martian surface, so this comes off as little of a surprise.
Source: SpaceX, NASA