As U.S. presidential hopefuls continue to burn cash on desperate White House bids, it’s easy to forget all the other lofty and expensive human endeavors — like Mars colonization. Such a generation-spanning megaproject makes even the campaign-trail pipe dream of a Mexican border wall seem modest, but billionaire futurist Elon Musk took to Twitter this week and announced the first step.
Yes, the SpaceX founder intends to make history as soon as 2018 by landing the first private spacecraft on the red planet. Specifically, he intends to send an unmanned Dragon 2 module, exploiting an ideal orbital window that will shorten the distance to Mars to a mere 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers). Once there, the Dragon capsule will descend to the surface via its SuperDraco propulsive landing system, which is an array of eight hover rockets currently undergoing tests here on Earth.
SpaceX has already experienced serious success with its current Dragon 1 module. In 2012, it became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station, and human transportation is in the works. These spacecraft will «inform overall Mars architecture» and pave the way for Musk’s previously touted goal of human Mars exploration by 2025.
Of course, only time will tell if SpaceX can ever transport humans to the red planet. Watch the video above to learn more about the Musk’s efforts to get there.