Elon Musk always said he wanted to go to Mars, and he’ll do just that in 2018. Seemingly feeling confident after landing a rocket on a floating barge, SpaceX on Wednesday announced plans to send its Red Dragon to Mars—the capsule that attaches to its Falcon heavy rocket—as soon as 2018. Hey, if Musk can’t deliver a Model 3 by then, sending a rocket to Mars is the next best thing.
Here is the Tweet announcing the news, which is light on details for now:
Planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018. Red Dragons will inform overall Mars architecture, details to come pic.twitter.com/u4nbVUNCpA
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2016
Now, this isn’t the same as sending humans to Mars, but it’s a huge first step toward that goal. SpaceX will use its Red Dragon capsule, a concept that could potentially deliver a payload of up to 2,200 pounds or more without the use of a parachute. Instead, the capsule will use an array of eight SuperDraco engines and propulsive-landing thrust to safely land Red Dragon on the planet’s surface.
Musk’s goal in sending Red Dragon to Mars will be to see if his company can land major payloads on the planet. If successful, it’ll encourage the company to possibly send astronauts on a mission to Mars—something Musk is hoping to do by 2026—with plans to colonize the planet.
Forget landing on a floating barge, sending humans to Mars is Musk’s next big challenge. More details and how SpaceX plans to execute the mission will be revealed soon.