Enlarge / A SpaceX concept image for a Red Dragon on Mars. (credit: SpaceX)
In recent months, SpaceX has acknowledged that it will not be able to launch an uncrewed Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2018.
The technology to send the capsule safely through deep space and propulsively land it on Mars just won’t be ready. However, that delay opens up an opportunity to launch two Dragons in 2020.
And that’s what SpaceX appears likely to do.
NASA’s manager of science missions, Jim Green, said on Tuesday that the 2020 launch window when Earth and Mars are in favorable alignment for relatively short transits is getting crowded.
Speaking Tuesday at the Humans to Mars conference in Washington, DC, Green said, “Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon.
That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon.
Those have been announced by SpaceX.” NASA plans to launch a Mars lander in 2020 as well.
Two Red Dragon missions in 2020 have not yet formally been announced by SpaceX.
Company spokesman John Taylor told Ars he would have to look into the question of sending two Dragons to Mars in 2020. However, other industry sources told Ars this is definitely under consideration by SpaceX, although no final decisions have been made.
Read 3 remaining paragraphs