SpaceX on Wednesday announced plans to send several free-flying spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018.
The company said it will attempt to launch its Dragon spacecraft, without a crew, to the red planet with help from its Falcon Heavy rocket. The missions will “help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads” on Mars and provide insight on the planet’s colonization architecture, SpaceX said in a statement.
“Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. Musk added in another tweet that he wouldn’t recommend sending astronauts yet due to the limited space inside the capsule. “Wouldn’t be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV,” he tweeted.
Dragon was designed to send both cargo and people into space, but it only currently delivers cargo, the company says on its website.