SpaceX has been teasing potential Mars plans for a while now, but the company just announced a launch date — and it’s soon. They plan to launch to the surface of Mars in 2018. https://twitter.com/SpaceX/status/725351354537906176
Especially intriguing is that the announcement refers to the spacecraft as the “Red Dragon”. Does this mean that we’ll be seeing an update to the spacecraft so that it can handle the conditions of the red planet? We hope so.
We reached out to SpaceX, and a spokesperson for SpaceX has shared some additional details about the planned mission — and they are, to put it plainly, thrilling.
It will be, as expected, an uncrewed flight. The purpose of these initial missions will be to figure out how safely land large payloads on Mars. To do that, SpaceX plans on launching their Red Dragons with the Falcon Heavy rocket — an ultra souped-up version of the Falcon 9 rocket that we saw land on a barge earlier this month.
Most exciting, though, is that these Red Dragon missions are also intended to lead into upcoming plans for building something on Mars. Elon Musk previously promised to reveal details about plans for a Martian city at the upcoming International Aeronautical Conference this September. According to the spokesperson, the Red Dragon missions will inform that future Mars colonization architecture.
Mars is the destination for this mission, but Elon Musk is already hinting at places much, much more further afield. The re-designed Dragon was built to withstand environments all over the solar system he said:
Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2016
Right after that, though, he also threw a quick bucket of water on any dreams we might have had of coming along for the ride:
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