The Martian may be becoming real sooner than we ever expected. SpaceX tweeted that it planned on sending its unmanned “Red Dragon” capsule to Mars by 2018. That’s four years sooner than the original 2022 launch date, and a sign that the private space program is making serious strides towards its dream of commercial space flight.
Red Dragons are capsules designed to transport astronauts short distances. This flight is a proof of concept for a possible Mars colony for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO. "Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight," Musk said in a tweet. "But wouldn't recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region. Wouldn't be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV." The capsules will be launched with a Falcon Heavy rocket and then use thrusters to make a soft, unmanned landing on Mars’ surface. You can watch a video showing how the Red Dragon would hover onto the Martian surface here. While SpaceX’s announcement is potentially big news, it’s just an intention. Still, there are indications that the company will soon see success that goes beyond tests.