Elon Musk’s space transport company has announced plans to send its unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, Bloomberg reports.
SpaceX, which made the announcement via Twitter on Wednesday, was founded in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.
The company, which currently flies the Falcon 9 rocket, has been working on the Mars Colonial Transporter, or MCT.
The upcoming “Red Dragon” missions will help to inform the design of the MCT.
SpaceX performs missions for commercial satellite customers and has contracts with NASA to fly both cargo and crew.
The cargo version of Dragon is presently at the International Space Station and is due to splash down in the Pacific Ocean next month.
SpaceX is also working on a crew version of Dragon, and it says the first manned test flight will take place in two to three years.
To get Dragon to Mars, SpaceX will need to fly Falcon Heavy, a more powerful rocket that has been in development for several years.
The company said it plans to conduct the first test flight of Falcon Heavy in November.
SpaceX sees rocket reusability as the key to unlocking access to space.
Earlier this month, it landed Falcon 9′s first stage on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA hopes to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
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