Elon Musk planning SpaceX mission to Mars by 2018

Tesla boss’s SpaceX plans to send an unmanned spaceship, the boldest goal yet in a private space travel industry that counts Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson

There are moonshots, and then there are moonshots.

Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, announced Wednesday morning it planned to send one of its spaceships to Mars by 2018, the most ambitious goal set to date by the burgeoning private space travel industry funded by billionaires instead of governments.

The mission would be unmanned, Musk said in a Twitter post, but the flights will be used to learn how to land the sorts of large payloads humans would need should they ever colonize the red planet, another SpaceX executive said.

These days it takes about eight months to get to Mars via rocket, according to Nasa. And as Musk notes, the inside of his Dragon 2 rocket offers about as much space as a sport utility vehicle.

But wouldn't recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region. Wouldn't be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2016

SpaceX recently made a breakthrough in privatized space flight. In early April it landed a reusable rocket on a robot-controlled floating platform; the idea being that would make it much cheaper to keep sending people beyond the atmosphere.

Nasa meantime is working on its own Mars missions, including an effort to send humans there by the 2030s. But the US government has restricted the space program’s funding in recent years, leaving it up to billionaires such as Musk, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin’s Richard Branson to fund their own would-be galactic fleets.

The SpaceX executive said Nasa would offer some technical support, such as use of a deep-space communications network, but its Mars flight would be a “SpaceX mission”.

Contributor

Danny Yadron in San Francisco

The GuardianTramp

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