Billionaire and technical entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has never rested on his laurels, recently outlined steps in his long-term program of the flight of humans (including himself) to Mars.
The plan begins with a Dragon capsule, similar to one of the cargo ships, now parked on the International Space Station and flying to Mars aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as early as 2018.
The first flight of the Falcon Heavy, which will have 27 first-stage engines, compared with nine aboard the current SpaceX rocket, is scheduled for the end of this year. Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket flying in the US since NASA’s Saturn 5 lunar rockets in the 1970s.
Objectives of 2018 for the mission SpaceX: first - Mars
NASA, which was one of the first supporters and main customer of Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, quickly responded to its statement on Mars with a statement of support and disclosure of an agreement offering technical support.
In the end, NASA successfully landed spacecraft on Mars seven times.
SpaceX, which has multibillion-dollar contracts with NASA for the delivery of cargo and crew to the space station, will not receive financial support from NASA for its debut mission to Mars, known as the Red Dragon.
The prospects for SpaceX's self-financing travel to Mars, one of which Musk clearly intends to develop to the landing point of people, sheds new light on NASA’s own Mars program. The cost of the NASA project is about $ 4 billion per year, and so far does not include habitat development for long-distance space travel or a vehicle. At the moment, the agency is focused on developing Orion's multi-purpose deep-space capsule and a heavy-duty rocket, known as the Space Launch System. The capsule and the launcher will be tested together for the first time during an unmanned flight around the moon in November 2018. The next flight test with astronauts on board is scheduled for 2023, setting the stage for the human mission to Mars in the mid-2030s.
The question arises: Will SpaceX be on Mars before NASA?
"I hope that SpaceX and NASA will work together in global harmony to put people on Mars together," astronaut Buzz Aldrin wrote in an e-mail to Discovery News.
Aldrin, one of 12 Americans who walked the moon, developed a plan for the colonization of Mars.
Bob Zubrin, another long-term supporter of the Martian settlements, said he thinks SpaceX might put people on Mars before NASA, and probably US astronauts, will fly as passengers on Mars on SpaceX vehicles.
SpaceX plans to use a new landing technology called supersonic braking, which has never been demonstrated on Mars.
“I wouldn’t have put up a SpaceX dragon landing on Mars in the end, but the dragon’s flight to the space station is 300 miles. Mars is 150 million miles and has a subtle atmosphere to be reckoned with. The degree of difficulty here is much higher.” Scott Hubbard, a counseling professor at Stanford University and a former director of the NASA Ames Research Center in California, wrote in an e-mail to Discovery News. Hubbard, who also served as NASA's first director in the Mars program, spoke about several critical technologies that must mature before landing on Mars, including high-power solar electric motors for transporting cargo and restocking ships, as well as habitat and system life support for crews during flights to Mars, which require from six to nine months in each direction.
"People on Mars are such a complex and difficult business that I expect a successful mission to be a joint one - perhaps, as a public-private partnership, and maybe multinational, all of the above can be together," said Hubbard.
More information about the Mars Mask plan is expected to be presented at the International Astronautics Congress in September.