CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - SpaceX announced on Wednesday that the innovative aerospace company will launch its 'Red Dragon' capsule to Mars aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket as soon as 2018.
The Falcon Heavy is designed to lift into orbit over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb) - a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel, according to SpaceX's website. Only the Saturn V rocket used for the Apollo moon landings could deliver more payload to orbit.
The "Red Dragon" is the name of the first test flight of SpaceX's Dragon 2 spacecraft which could be used on missions to planets beyond Mars.
"Dragon 2 is designed to be able to land anywhere in the solar system," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Tweeted. "Red Dragon Mars mission is the first test flight."
However, the Dragon 2 is not designed to transport humans to other planets.
"But wouldn't recommend transporting astronauts beyond Earth-moon region," Tweeted Musk. "Wouldn't be fun for longer journeys. Internal volume ~size of SUV."
The full details of SpaceX's mission to Mars have yet to be revealed, but is part of a 2014 contract with NASA where the space agency would provide technical data and expertise to support " ... SpaceX’s anticipated development of space transportation capabilities to and from Mars for unmanned science, and ultimately crew missions ..."
Image credits: SpaceX