SpaceX, the spaceflight programme led by Tesla boss Elon Musk, tweeted yesterday that it was planning to send their Dragon rocket to Mars as soon as 2018, underlying their commitment to exploring our solar system. With recent successes in using reusable rockets, SpaceX hopes it will be able to land a Dragon on the planet’s surface, collect samples and send them back to Earth for analysis.
Of course landing the Dragon on Mars will prove significantly more difficult than on Earth, given the atmosphere of the planet is one third that of ours, meaning parachutes will be of no use, but these impressive thrusters on the lander will actually turn it sideways to slow it down.
Don’t get too many visions of exploring the surface of Mars like Matt Damon did in The Martian though, there are no plans to send humans up in the Dragon anytime soon. According to Musk, it wouldn’t be much fun for the six month to a year journey.
You can see more images of what SpaceX imagines the landing on Mars would like on their Flickr page.