SpaceX is planning to send his Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018.
Elon Musk announced their intentions in a statement on Twitter this afternoon.
“Planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018. Red Dragons will inform overall Mars architecture, details to come” — SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2016.
Known as “Red Dragon”, the variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft will be launched by the Falcon Heavy rocket. SpaceX hopes the mission will demonstrate a way to land large payloads on Mars without parachutes or other aerodynamic decelerators.
Getting to Mars is extremely difficult. On average, the planet is 140 million miles from Earth, though the planets come to within about 35 million miles every 26 months.
A NASA spokesman said NASA plans to provide technical assistance in exchange for detailed, non-proprietary flight data, imagery and science data to NASA.
“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 uncrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars,” NASA said in a statement.
“This collaboration could provide valuable entry, descent and landing data to NASA for our journey to Mars, while providing support to American industry. We have similar agreements with dozens of U.S. commercial, government and non-profit partners.”