SpaceX and NASA plan to create the Red Dragon capsule and land it on Mars to collect scientific data — possibly within the next two years in 2018. The plan is to use an unmanned Dragon capsule.
Red Dragon missions will help inform the overall Mars architecture that will be unveiled later this year.
These missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars.
A Falcon Heavy will by used to launch it.
The Dragon craft is meant to carry astronauts, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the SUV-sized interior of the craft would make it difficult for humans to endure any trips longer than from the Earth to the moon.
Still, NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman says that her agency is closer “to sending American astronauts to Mars than anyone, anywhere, at any time has ever been.”
In a statement about the collaboration with SpaceX, Newman says a new and broad consensus is emerging that calls for sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system. Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2016