Musk’s next target: Mars, as early as 2018

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The private aerospace company SpaceX announced last week that it plans to send one of its Dragon spacecraft on a test mission to Mars in the next two years. The spacecraft will not be manned, but the test flight will enable the company to collect valuable information while learning how to improve and develop its technology which will allow SpaceX to land bigger objects on Mars, bringing Elon Musk’s vision of establishing a colony on the red planet someday closer to becoming a reality.

Is SpaceX beating NASA to the punch?

The aerospace company announced its ambitious plan via Twitter, writing that it plans to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars by 2018.

Soon after the company’s official tweet, Elon Musk published a series of tweets to expand on their plans for moving forward with the project. According to Musk, the Dragon 2’s mission to Mars will be its test flight, and that the spacecraft is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system.

In the following tweet he adds that he would not recommend maning these spaceships with astronauts as the spacecraft’s compartment is about the size of an SUV vehicle, making it a cramped and uncomfortable ride for long journeys.

The Red Dragons selected for the mission are equipped with eight SuperDraco engines and were designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system.

The engines will enable the spacecraft to land with the same Propulsive Landing technique as the SpaceX that lets the spacecraft land on solid ground.

When the spacecraft approaches Mars’ surface, it will slow down its speed in order to land in a safe and controlled way. In addition, SpaceX will enhance the spacecraft with Falcon Heavy, an improved version of the propulsion system of the Falcon 9, for enhanced launch capabilities.

Not much more is known about Musk’s long term aspirations, which might precede NASA in its plan to send people to Mars by 2030. In any case, SpaceX has guaranteed that it will update the public as soon as there are developments, which may surface during the International Congress for Aeronautics, scheduled be held in Mexico this September.

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