SpaceX announced today that it has plans to send one of its Dragon space capsules to the surface of Mars. The first launch is scheduled for 2018 and will take years to reach the red planet. The aim of the mission is to demonstrate the company’s ability to take large payloads to Mars, as well as solidify the company’s long-term plans to establish colonies on Mars. Elon Musk added that after the first launch, the company plans to send cargo to Mars at every orbital opportunity. Those opportunities come about every 26 months.
He also announced that the company hopes to send the first humans to Mars in 2024, with an arrival time in 2025. Though he admitted that “there’s some uncertainties associated” with that plan.
Later on during the Q&A session, Musk opened up more about his visions for Mars. Assuming that SpaceX is ultimately successful in getting lots of people to Mars, “big entrepreneurial opportunities” open up, he said. Those opportunities would range from “the first iron ore refinery to the first pizza joint.”
“What SpaceX is trying to do is establish the environment for entrepreneurs on Mars to flourish,” said Musk.
The “Red Dragon” missions would be a project that SpaceX would undertake on its own, not with NASA . However, it will be obtaining technical support from NASA and utilizing the space agency’s Deep Space Network for communications. In exchange for NASA’s help, SpaceX will provide them with “Mars entry, descent, and landing data.”