SpaceX reportedly sets its sights on Mars “as soon as 2018”

In a tweet, the company says it's prepared to send a Dragon to Mars within the decade.
By | Published: April 27, 2016
UPDATE: In a blog post, NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman hints at a future SpaceX collaboration, saying, “In exchange for Martian entry, descent, and landing data from SpaceX, NASA will offer technical support for the firm’s plan to attempt to land an uncrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars.”
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SpaceX Mars Plans
The company tweeted out these images of its potential Mars mission, which could launch within two years.
SpaceX

Elon Musk and SpaceX have been cooking up plans for a Mars mission the past few years, but now it seems that those plans have accelerated. In a Tweet from the official SpaceX account, the company said it’s prepared to send a Dragon capsule to Mars “as soon as 2018.”

On Friday, the company tweeted a Happy Earth Day message, saying “There isn’t a Mars Day yet” along with the image of a terraformed red planet. That could’ve been a hint to the big announcement, which founder Musk says will involve a Dragon 2 capsule, with Mars as the first real test. The Dragon 2 is “designed to be landed anywhere in the solar system,” according to a tweet from Musk. 

The Dragon 2 is separate from the company’s plans for a Crew Dragon capsule, one intended to transport crew to space. Musk says the Dragon 2 would not be ideal for a crewed mission to Mars as it’s about the size of an SUV, but it could work for lunar missions. The “Red Dragon” is part of the company’s overall Mars plan, so expect news on that later this year, including mission architecture and possible payload.