SpaceX already accepted in February that launching its Dragon capsule to Mars in 2018 was a little too aggressive, and thus, it postponed the date to 2020. Then on Wednesday, while speaking at the International Space Station Research and Development conference, Musk said the “Red Dragon” project may be over entirely. He also said that the current Dragon capsule may not be deployed for propulsive landings on Mars due to safety concerns. However, Musk did hint at other plans for the Red Planet.
Why is the Dragon capsule not fit for Mars?
Earlier, Musk planned to integrate the company’s Dragon capsule with thrusters and landing legs that would be used for a safe and gentle landing on solid ground. This process is known as propulsive landing. Now, the company thinks that it would take exhaustive efforts to make the landing safe enough to transport a crew. The CEO said it was a “tough decision” to make.
However, Musk later took to Twitter to report that they are still planning to do powered landings on Mars through a larger ship.
Plan is to do powered landings on Mars for sure, but with a vastly bigger ship
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 19, 2017
During the conference, Musk stated that he is sure there is a better way the next generation of SpaceX rockets and spacecraft can be utilized.
“Now there’s a far better approach. That’s what the next-generation of SpaceX rockets and spacecraft is going to do,” Musk said.
Musk, however, did not divulge the plans the company has when it comes to landing spacecraft on Mars. One thing is clear though, which is that the Dragon capsule will have thrusters, but for emergency purposes only. For now, parachutes will help in capsule landings, notes TechSpot.
Musk stated that their plans for the Mars mission are being revised, and there could be some revelation about them in September at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia. The company could scale down the size of the ITS spacecraft to make it apt for the missions launched in Earth orbit and the mission to Mars, the CEO said. Further, scrapping the size of the architecture would save on costs.
SpaceX’s other plans
When asked about extraorbital developments, Musk said, “If you want to get the public real fired up, we gotta have a base on the moon.”
Musk noted that having a permanent presence on another heavenly body is the continuation of the dream of Apollo.
He also expressed grief over the fact that there are many people who are not aware of what the International Space Station is or how cool it is. Musk’s personal travel plans may not include the moon, but he did note that he would like to take a smaller Falcon rocket to the International Space Station in three or four years, notes the DailyMail.
SpaceX is also looking to launch a massive rocket called the Falcon Heavy later this year. The rocket will have three boosters instead of one and 27 engines instead of nine, all of which would ignite simultaneously.