Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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SpaceX to Land Red Dragon Spacecraft on Mars in 2018; will set New Records

SpaceX Red Dragon landing on Mars (Artist's Concept)

(Photo : SpaceX) SpaceX is looking to explore Mars by 2018

The plan by Elon Musk's SpaceX space transport company to land a modified cargo-carrying Red Dragon spacecraft on Mars in 2018 will accomplish many historic firsts in spaceflight.

SpaceX's public announcement of the mission on its social media accounts on April 27 was preceded by Musk's discussing the Red Dragon's capabilities. The long-term goal of SpaceX is to provide spacecraft for the future human colonization of Mars.

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The landing of the uncrewed Red Dragon measuring 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide on the Red Planet is an important step towards attaining this goal. Probable landing sites for Red Dragon will be polar or mid-latitude locations with proven near-surface ice. This because Red Dragon might also drill about 1.0 meters underground to reach reservoirs of water ice that exist in the shallow subsurface.

NASA will assist SpaceX with the Mars landing mission scheduled for an as yet undetermined date in 2018. It will also provide technical assistance, communications and navigation support.

SpaceX said the Mars landing will showcase Red Dragon's ability to reach distant destinations throughout the solar system.

"Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system," Musk tweeted. "Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight."

Musk will reveal his plans for sending humans to Mars in September at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, said The Verge.

The landing of Red Dragon will accomplish a number of historic spaceflight firsts.

* Red Dragon will become the first commercial spacecraft to land on the Red Planet.

* Weighing 14,000 lb (1 tonne), Red Dragon will also be the heaviest spacecraft to land on Mars. It can also carry a 1 tonne (2,200 lb) payload.

* The Red Dragon mission will be the cheapest landing mission to Mars. Total mission cost will come to less than US$400 million.

* The next-gen Dragon 2 spacecraft, of which Red Dragon is the first, are designed to land on Mars without using a parachute. The 2018 mission might test the feasibility of this concept.

* The Red Dragon mission will be SpaceX's first launch to another planet.

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