The Verge– SpaceX plans to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, the company announced today — marking a major first step toward CEO Elon Musk’s goal of sending humans to the Red Planet. The company didn’t say how many spacecraft it will send, but hinted it would conduct a series of these Dragon missions and that it would release more details soon. In a tweet, the company indicated that the capsules would fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a bigger version of its Falcon 9; the rocket will launch the capsules to the planet to test out how to land heavy payloads on Mars. If successful, the endeavor would make SpaceX the first private spaceflight company to land a vehicle on another planet.
SpaceX is sending what it calls the Red Dragon, a modified version of the spacecraft that the company uses to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. The Red Dragon is equipped with eight SuperDraco engines that allow the capsule to land on solid ground, a technique known as a propulsive landing. The engines are meant to turn on during the Dragon’s descent toward the Martian surface, slowing down the vehicle’s fall and allowing it to land on ground in a controlled way. It’s similar to how SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets post-launch.
Big news out of the space industry today as Elon Musk and his SpaceX team has announced plans to send their new Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. For those of you that are unaware (assuming the majority of people here), Elon Musk has been hard at work not only on his new Tesla Model 3 but also on a spacecraft that can eventually help transmit humans to Mars. Today marks a step closer to a Mars human colony as the SpaceX team will now be working on landing heavy equipment and modules on the planet. If SpaceX can figure out how to land their equipment through the Mars atmosphere which happens to be almost 1/100 of the pressure of Earth’s, it will be a major success for the industry and will be the largest thing to ever land on the surface of the red planet.
This step will prove significant in getting people to Mars because it will allow for equipment and supplies to be present before the humans arrive. Having these things in place before arrival will prove crucial to the success of the program. Although NASA is also working on an initiative to send people the Mars, the program is not privately funded like SpaceX is and will not even be sending a rocket to Mars until at least 2020. Knowing NASA’s history of timelines (poor at best), this shows how advanced SpaceX is compared to the rest of the industry.
The fact that a man like Elon Musk can come in and break up the government contract monopoly that mega-corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing had on the industry speaks volumes to how powerful his technology is. Only time will tell how successful the program will be, but judging by the recent successes of SpaceX in landing their rocket on a barge for reuse, this launch may just prove to be a success. If SpaceX can get a rocket to Mars by 2018 without failure, we will certainly see humans on Mars before the end of the next decade. The future is now folks.