Following after their official announcement made last year, authorities have recently revealed that SpaceX's bold plan of launching its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018 would have to pushed back by a couple years. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell reveals that its robotic Martian lander called Red Dragon won't be ready in 2018 like what the company initially wanted. In one of the company's official statements, SpaceX has confirmed that they are now targeting the year 2020 for the Mars trip, a move that will allegedly allow the company to better focus on its other ambitious projects.
On SpaceX's Delay
According to reports revealed by Engadget, Shotwell has claimed that if all goes according to plan, it would be the first time that the space corporation is launching a rocket from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center. Shotwell explains that she and her team were focused on achieving that goal but ultimately felt that they needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on the company's crew program and their Falcon Heavy program. As of the press time, the company reveals that they are on the process of developing the Red Dragon capsule for low-cost Mars lander missions flown atop a Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be designed to test all the techniques and technologies that they have developed so far and will ferry equipment future spacefarers would need when they visit the red planet.
The Red Dragon Mission
Furthermore, as reported by The Verge, the Red Dragon mission is allegedly meant to test out the technologies needed to land heavy equipment on the Martian surface, a task that has long been considered as quite difficult to do. Unlike other Mars landers, SpaceX executives said that its Red Dragon is designed to lower itself down to the surface using rocket motors embedded in its hull, a technique that is commonly referred to as supersonic retro-propulsion. As a matter of fact, it was found that if everything goes well, it will apparently be the largest vehicle to ever land on the Red Planet.
Meanwhile, it was found that if ever SpaceX does end up launching in 2020, it has already been anticipated that there's going to be a lot of traffic on Mars around that time. NASA's next Mars rover is supposed to launch in 2020, as well as the rover for the ExoMars mission, which is a joint project between Roscosmos and the European Space Agency to look for signs of life on the planet. Ultimately, the United Arab Emirates has also revealed their plans of sending an orbiter to Mars in 2020 as well, and even China has already expressed a goal of reaching Mars by the end of the decade.