SpaceX could send craft to Mars by 2018

Private spaceflight company SpaceX has announced via Twitter that it plans to send one of its unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars by as soon as 2018.

It would be a first step toward CEO Elon Musk's goal to one day set up a human Martian colony. Musk, who founded California-based SpaceX in 2002, had previously said human missions could commence around 2025.

The Dragon made headlines in 2012 as the first commercial spacecraft ever to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and successfully bring cargo back to Earth.

The version of the vehicle that SpaceX is sending is dubbed the Red Dragon, and has eight special engines that would allow it to land on the ground in a controlled way.

SpaceX would be the first commercial spacecraft company to land a vehicle on another planet. Additionally, the Dragon would be the biggest thing to ever land on Mars.

SpaceX is working on changes that would allow the Dragon to fly crew. However, Musk said on Twitter that he wouldn't recommend sending astronauts beyond the Earth-moon region in a Dragon, noting that it's about the size of an SUV on the inside.

The company was recently in the news for successfully landing one of its Falcon rockets on a platform in the ocean.

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