2018 - That's When Elon Musk Wants To Send A Spacecraft To Mars

If Elon Musk has his way, we'll be on our way to Mars a lot sooner than NASA anticipates. As soon as 2018, according to the SpaceX Twitter account.

This would denote the very first date that the company has laid out in its ambitious plans to send a manned spacecraft to Mars.

Musk has long been a proponent to a manned Mars mission, saying that it is possible to inhabit this planet and eventually colonize it.

The first of these missions, slated for some time in 2018, won't be manned, and are being called the Red Dragon missions. They will serve to help the company develop a fail proof plan to send manned missions to Mars in the future that tow larger payloads with the necessary equipment to facilitate colonization.

Part of this plan, according to SpaceX, is their Dragon 2 ship, which they say has been designed to "land anywhere in the solar system."

Musk plans on launching that first ship, Red Dragon, in 2018 as the first of many planned test flights to Mars.

The company has plans to send humans to the red planet sometime in the 2020s.

By comparison, NASA says it plans to send humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s, pegging the cost at tens of billions of dollars.

In 2020, NASA will be launching a new rover to explore the planet and collect rock samples.

While an ambitious goal for SpaceX, much remains to be seen if they can overcome any past technical difficulties that have hampered previous launches.

Back in June of 2015, an unmanned SpaceX rocket blew up on liftoff, prompting speculation.

However, since that time, just under a year later, in April of 2016, SpaceX successfully landed a first-stage rocket on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean, setting a significant milestone for mankind.

Given Musk's propensity for technology, and his past achievements, in particular the popularity of Tesla, it'd not be shocking whatsoever if the billionaire was able to successfully send his rockets to Mars.

It's probably good that they won't try to man the first salvo of missions until they have a clear path to completion. But chances are looking pretty good that SpaceX will plant a flag on the Martian surface before NASA or any other space fairing nation does.

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