SpaceX, the aerospace transport and manufacturing company founded by TESLA CEO Elon Musk, has just unveiled its plans to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2018. According to the company, this will serve as the main testing avenue for the technologies SpaceX needs for other missions to the red planet in the future.
For some time, the company has been very public regarding its goal of sending the first commercial spacecraft to Mars. Recently, through its Facebook page, the company announced that it will execute the initial stages for this goal two years from now.
As detailed by the company, it aims to send the unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars by 2018.
"SpaceX is planning to send Dragons to Mars as early as 2018," the company posted. "Red Dragon missions will help inform the overall Mars architecture that will be unveiled later this year."
"These missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars," SpaceX added.
For now, the only space agency that has successfully launched missions bound to Mars is NASA. This is primarily the reason why SpaceX will team up with the agency for the upcoming mission.
Through the partnership, NASA will assist in guiding SpaceX regarding the navigation, communications and other technical aspects of the Dragon mission. As noted by the space agency, although the two parties have signed an agreement for the mission, there will be no financial transactions between the two.
Instead, the partnership will be a purely collaborative effort from NASA and SpaceX.
"Building on an existing no-funds-exchanged collaboration with SpaceX, NASA will provide technical support for the firm's plan to attempt to land an unscrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars," NASA said in a statement according to Space Flight Now.
"This collaboration could provide valuable entry, descent and landing data to NASA for our journey to Mars, while providing support to American industry," the agency continued.
If the Dragon mission is successful, then the public can expect SpaceX to proceed with its original goal in ferrying people to and from Mars. As envisioned by Musk, he believes that sometime in 2030, spaceflights to the red planet will be cheaper than it is today and will be readily available to people.