Unmanned spacecraft to land on Mars

By Jillian Jennett
Staff Writer

Artist's depiction of the Mars horizon with SpaceX above

Concept art showing SpaceX Dragon en route to Mars. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk both tweeted on April 27 that the company has plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018.

The craft that is to be launched to Mars is called the Dragon 2; the Red Dragon Mars Mission will be its first test flight.

The Dragon is a free-flying craft designed to deliver cargo and people to locations anywhere in the solar system and was the first commercial spacecraft to ever deliver cargo to and return from the International Space Station. It is actually the only spacecraft capable of returning a significant amount of cargo back to Earth in both its pressurized and unpressurized cargo chambers.

Musk said in January that he would like to send humans to Mars around the year 2025. That future just seems to be the next step in Musk’s plan, though he did say in a follow-up to his original tweet that he would not recommend transporting astronauts beyond the region of the Earth and Moon, as the internal space of Dragon 2 is approximately the size of an SUV.

SpaceX is currently under an agreement with NASA to develop refinements that will enable a Dragon spacecraft to fly with a human crew. The first manned flight of a Dragon spacecraft flight is expected to take place in about three or so years, despite its aforementioned tight quarters.

SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Elon Musk is the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX, the co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Motors, as well as the chairman of SolarCity.

Musk’s goals for his involvement in these companies are to reduce global warming via sustainable energy and to reduce the risk of human extinction by expanding human colonies beyond Earth, namely to Mars.

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