Elon Musk’s SpaceX has announced plans to send an unmanned space craft to Mars as early as 2018.
The Red Dragon, which is a variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft, will aim for a soft landing on the surface of the red planet.
The cargo mission is intended to deliver scientific equipment to the red planet as part of Musk’s ambitions to create a human colony on Mars, which he intends to elaborate on later this year.
On Twitter, SpaceX said the Red Dragon missions will aim to “inform overall Mars architecture,” while indicating the Falcon Heavy rocket will be used to send the vessel on its way.
The company also tweeted about recent tests of the SuperDraco engines it believes will be key to a safe landing on Mars.
The firm has promised more details on the proposed missions will follow.
“Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight,” Musk tweeted on Wednesday.
“But wouldn't recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region. Wouldn't be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV.”
If SpaceX’s initial ambitions are met, the firm could become the first private company ever to land on another planet.
To hear more about Musk’s overall plan to colonise Mars, we’re going to have to wait until September.