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Elon Musk Pushes Back SpaceX First Mission to Mars to 2020 -- Why?

Feb 20, 2017 10:48 AM EST
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SpaceX moved the Red Dragon mission to Mars to 2020 instead of the original 2018 schedule. The company said this is to give way to other SpaceX projects.
(Photo : Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

SpaceX, the commercial space company owned by billionaire and businessman Elon Musk, is supposed to be the first to launch its mission to Mars in 2018. However, recent updates revealed that the company is pushing its mission to the red planet to 2020.

Last year, Musk was very vocal in being the first to reach the red planet with its Dragon spacecraft. His was supposed to be the first privately funded mission to reach Mars. However, SpaceX won't be flying to Mars in 2018, as it apparently needs a few more years before the mission will be launched.

SpaceX President Gwyne Shotwell already confirmed that the new target year was moved to 2020, according to Fortune. As per the company, the delay was initiated to give way to its other projects.

"We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program," Shotwell said at a press conference held at Cape Canaveral, Florida. "So we're looking more for the 2020 timeframe for that."

The Red Dragon mission will be the testing phase of the equipment to be used on the surface of Mars. Many spacecraft managed to land on the red planet, but many also failed like the European Space Agency's (ESA) Schiaparelli lander for the ExoMars mission. The lander crashed in October last year.

The thin atmosphere on Mars lessens the cushioning that helps slow down spacecraft. Experts say that the crashes could also be attributed to the heavy payloads. What makes the SpaceX Red Dragon mission different is its new descent technology that will lower itself using its hull with new rocket motors in a method called the "supersonic retro-propulsion".

SpaceX aims to successfully land the biggest spacecraft on the surface of Mars. It looks like SpaceX is being a bit more cautious by delaying the launch that will give them more time to work on the technology.

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