SpaceX has been wanting to launch a craft to Mars for quite some time now. According to a tweet on the company’s Twitter page, however, may prove that that time is right around the corner.
In the tweet, SpaceX says that they plan on launching a spacecraft to the Red Planet as early as 2018. This doesn’t mean humans will accompany the craft (that won’t be done for at least another decade), however this will prove to be one of the biggest accomplishments in human history.
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
Slim-to-none is the best way to describe the details about the rocket that will hopefully reach Mars, however The Verge was able to report on what kind of spacecraft this would be.
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.
Alongside this, a few personal tweets from SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk tells us that the Red Dragon is able to land on any surface in the Solar System. However, he also notes that sending humans in this shuttle isn’t ideal since the size is roughly the equivalent of a standard SUV.
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
Nonetheless, we are truly reaching the point when visiting Mars will soon become as common as visiting the Moon. If this mission is successful, SpaceX will not only beat NASA to the game, but also be the first people to launch a spacecraft and have it land safely on the Red Planet. Let’s just hope it goes smoothly…