PRIVATE space exploration firm SpaceX has revealed that it will be aiming to get a rocket to Mars as early as 2018.
The Elon Musk-backed firm will be working with space agency NASA in its mission to get an unmanned Dragon capsule to the Red Planet, the company announced on Twitter.
The mission will essentially act as a stepping stone towards getting a manned craft to Mars in the future.
The private firm will work with NASA as so far the US space agency is the only body to have successfully landed and continued to operate a space craft on Mars.
It has proven difficult to get a working machine on Mars, as the European Space Agency (ESA) has shown with it’s failed Beagle-2 robot, which lost communication with Earth once it had touched down.
Planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018. Red Dragons will inform overall Mars architecture, details to come pic.twitter.com/u4nbVUNCpA
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) 27 апреля 2016 г.
There will be no financial exchange between NASA and SpaceX with the former advising Musk’s company with expertise, and the latter giving the space agency data about its landing so that there is more information to go by when the pair, likely separately, attempt to get humans to Mars.
John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, told The Washington Post: "NASA has more expertise in getting to and landing on Mars than any other organisation in the world.
"So if a U.S. company wants to try it on a no-exchange-of-funds basis, why not?"
SpaceX, ran by Mr Musk who founded Tesla and PayPal and is often to comic book hero Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), has made great strides in its space exploration recently.
It came after their reusable rocket successfully landed at sea for the first time, potentially heralding the beginning of a new era of cheap and reusable space travel following several failed attempts.
In a milestone moment for SpaceX, the reusable main stage booster of a Falcon 9 rocket successfully touched down autonomously on a landing platform in the Atlantic Ocean, some 185 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral.