The Mars mission is only the first step in the great goal of Elon Musk to make space flights to the red planet affordable.

SpaceX is preparing to make the first step towards its goal – to fly people to another planet. Dragon spacecraft is to start its mission to Mars as early as 2018.

U.S. space agency NASA stated that SpaceX “could provide valuable entry, descent and landing data to NASA for our journey to Mars, while providing support to American industry”. The agency that is planning a human mission to Mars for the 2030s promised to provide technical support but no financial assistance for SpaceX’s first breakthrough.

It is not the first time that Elon Musk, a founder of SpaceX, expresses the idea to make the red planet habitable for humans. He used to make no secret of his plans to colonize Mars. But it is the first time that real deadlines for a possible mission are set.

Reuters informs that the Dragon spacecraft is to make its first test flight known as Red Dragon Mars mission. However, the spacecraft hasn’t been created specially for the red planet.

Musk aims at making space flights real and affordable. But Dragon spacecraft, the first test spacecraft, has an internal volume about the size of a sports utility vehicle and would be uncomfortable for people making long space journeys. The SpaceX will continue working on the development of technologies needed for human transportation to Mars, a long-term aim of the company.

SpaceX still has much to do in two years before its mission to the red planet. The company is going to provide more details about its Mars program at the International Astronautical Congress in September.

At the end of 2015 SpaceX made headlines when it managed to vertically park a Falcon 9 rocket stage back on solid ground after flying a payload to orbit. It was the first time any company has landed an orbital rocket segment back on Earth following a launch to space.

Elon Musk said after the successful landing: “Everything appears to have been perfect.” He went on, adding that he actually thought the rocket blew up as it came down to the pad as he heard a huge boom when it met the earth. He then realized that he was just hearing the sonic boom from the rocket stage’s re-entry, not the destruction of the rocket itself.

Rocket company Blue Origin, owned by founder Jeff Bezos, also landed its rocket back on Earth after flying a test capsule to the edge of space — close to 100 km in altitude. He found some words to congratulate Musk on the achievement:

SpaceX commentators described the launch and return – the first time an orbital rocket successfully achieved a controlled landing on Earth – as “incredibly exciting”.

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