After years of teasing the reason for its creation, SpaceX has finally announced a timeline for a mission to Mars. According a tweet from the company Twitter account, they plan to launch for the Red Planet by 2018.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed that the initial mission will be unmanned and intended to figure out the best possible way to safely land larger payloads on the planet, with consecutive flights being used to establish some sort of structure.
These missions will be used as the framework architecture for the development of a human colony on Mars. Before this announcement Elon Musk had promised that he would provide details for the Martian colony at the International Aeronautical Conference in September, which is likely to mean we will now be getting a deeper look at the conference.
The announcement mentioned that a Red Dragon capsule will be used for the mission, this being a 2nd generation of SpaceX’s standard Dragon capsule. The plan is to launch the capsule with the Falcon Heavy rocket, a more muscular version of the now infamous Falcon 9.
In a tweet from his personal account, Elon Musk mentioned that the new Dragon is designed to “land anywhere in the solar system”. He quickly followed that up by recommending that the capsule not be used for astronaut transport beyond the Earth-Moon region, due to its SUV sized interior.
The Red Dragon mission has been in development for some time now, and SpaceX has been working secretly with NASA since 2014, who is also launch a Mars mission in 2018. The two bodies signed an agreement last week that will provide SpaceX with technical assistance from NASA, while SpaceX will publicly release all data that it collects over the missions length.