Three Words: SpaceX… Mars… 2018

Article Updated: 28 Apr , 2016
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Fans of Elon Musk and commercial space exploration are buzzing over the news! Back in 2002, when Musk first established the private aerospace company SpaceX, he did so with the intent of creating the technologies needed to reduce the cost of space transportation and enable crewed missions to Mars. And for the past few years, industry and the general public alike have been waiting on him to say when missions to Mars might truly begin.

Earlier this morning, Elon Musk did just that, when he tweeted from his company account that SpaceX plans to send a Dragon capsule to Mars by 2018. Despite talking about his eventual plans to mount crewed missions to Mars in the coming decades, and to even build a colony there, this is the first time that a specific date has been attached to any plans.

What was also indicated in the announcement was that the missions would be built around the “Red Dragon” mission architecture. As a modified, unmanned version of the Dragon capsule, this craft was conceived back in 2013 and 2015 as part of the NASA Discovery Program – specifically for Mission 13, a series of concepts which are scheduled to launch sometime in 2022.

Concept art showing a Dragon capsule landing on Mars. Credit: SpaceX

Concept art showing a Dragon capsule landing on Mars. Credit: SpaceX

Though the idea was never submitted to NASA, SpaceX has kept them on hand as part of a proposed low-cost Mars lander mission that would deploy a sample-return rover to the Martian surface. The mission will be deployed using a Falcon Heavy rocket, based on the mission profile and the illustrations that accompanied the announcement.

This mission would not only demonstrate SpaceX’s ability to procure samples from the Martian environment and bring them back to Earth – something that only federal space agencies like NASA have been able to do so far – but also test techniques and equipment that human crews will be using to enter the Martian atmosphere.

And if all goes well, we can expect that Musk will push forward with his plans for both crewed missions, and the development of all the necessary architecture to being work on his Mars Colonial Transporter, which he hopes to use to begin ferrying people to Mars to build his planned colony.

Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis of this announcement from our resident expert, Ken Kremer!

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16 Responses

  1. danR says:

    Chevy Bolt coming at the end of this year.
    Quick Elon, more Hyperloop…

  2. TomA says:

    [quote]
    This mission would not only demonstrate SpaceX’s ability to procure samples from the Martian environment and bring them back to Earth – something that only federal space agencies like NASA have been able to do so far –
    [end quote]

    I have not heard of any actual retrieval of Martian material, from Mars, and returning it to labs here on Earth – am I missing something?

    So far, the only Martian artifacts of which I’m aware are meteorites found on Earth that have trapped gasses and isotope compositions consistent with Martian reconnaissance.

  3. TomA says:

    I have not heard of any actual retrieval of Martian material, from Mars, and returning it to labs here on Earth – am I missing something?

    So far, the only Martian artifacts of which I’m aware are meteorites found on Earth that have trapped gasses and isotope compositions consistent with Martian reconnaissance.

  4. TomArt says:

    sorry – got error messages – didn’t think any went through until I refreshed the page…

  5. TomArt says:

    Sorry – I kept getting an error message, stating that I was posting comments too fast – I was just trying to post ONE comment…but then, I refreshed the page, and all these repeat comments came up.

    Hey, Fraser Cain – comment feature could use some tweaking – thanks!

    • Fraser Cain says:

      Yup, we’re in the process of overhauling it.

      • Manu says:

        Good!
        While you’re at it, can you please put back the number of comments for each article on the front page again? It’s tiresome to have to open each article checking for possible answers.

        Even better, notifications for answers might be cool =)

  6. Aaron Glafenhein says:

    correct me if i’m wrong but don’t believe that any space agency has completed a sample return mission from mars yet.

  7. Benzo says:

    Might as well join in. Since when was NASA retrieving samples from mars? Must have missed that one

    • They are the only ones who have the ability to do such a thing. That was the intended point. This would be the first time that a private aerospace company shows the same capability.

  8. Velocity.Wave says:

    I was kind of shocked that this article claimed we have brought samples back from Mars?!

    If we had done that, that would have been MASSIVE paradigm shifting news in the world of astronomy. Bringing back a sample of Mars is one of the prime goals that has yet to be achieved.

    I wonder if the publisher of this site (Fraser) or the article writer (Matt) can please clarify what was meant, and/or correct the article, as that’s a pretty serious factual error.

    • Matt Williams says:

      It does not indicate that we have done this. It claims (albeit somewhat unclearly) that sample return missions have thus far been something only federal space agencies have been able to do.

  9. InTheory says:

    WordPress has been buggier than usual recently (and that’s really saying something) and I was hit with this particular one yesterday. It’s one of the more common bugs. I really detest WP.

Comments are closed.