Space & Astronomy
SpaceX ditches plans for 2018 Mars landing
By T.K. Randall
July 21, 2017 · 4 comments
An artist's impression of Red Dragon landing on Mars. Image Credit: SpaceX
Plans to land a modified version of the company's reusable Dragon capsule on Mars have been scrapped.
With goals that include landing humans on Mars by as early as 2025, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk certainly cannot be faulted for his lack of ambition.
How realistic his timetable is in practice however is another matter entirely.
This week it was revealed that plans to land an unmanned, modified Dragon capsule on Mars in 2018 have now been scrapped so that another, less expensive spacecraft can be designed to replace it.
One of the biggest issues with using a Dragon capsule for the mission was that its thruster-based landing system was too risky to use on the boulder-strewn surface of Mars.
Complying with NASA's stringent safety requirements would have been almost impossible.
"There was a time that I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side-mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars," said Musk.
The new replacement vehicle, which will be smaller, cheaper and use parachutes to land in place of thrusters, could be unveiled as early as September.
To help fund its "super-expensive" development, SpaceX is likely to ensure that it can be used for missions in to Earth's orbit as well as for missions to Mars.
"You make it capable of doing Earth orbit activity as well as Mars activity," said Musk.
"I think this one's got a shot of being real on the economic front."
Source: New Scientist
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