Thursday, September 1, 2011
RED DRAGON... While SpaceX prepares to launch a Dragon spacecraft on November 30 to dock with the International Space Station for the first time, it has also revealed plans that would involve its privately-made vehicle soaring beyond Earth orbit before the end of this decade. Tentatively called Red Dragon, the capsule would be an unmanned delivery system carrying tons of scientific instruments to the surface of Mars. In fact, the sheer size of Dragon (considering that it’s primarily designed to carry seven astronauts onboard) would allow it to land on the Red Planet with more payload than has been brought to Mars since robotic space probes first began visiting the barren world in the 1960s.
If selected by NASA as a future Discovery-class interplanetary mission, Red Dragon would head to Mars in 2018...possibly by a Falcon Heavy rocket that SpaceX is currently developing and plans to launch on a test flight in 2013.