Two Dragon Mars missions in 2020?

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It appears that SpaceX is considering flying two test Dragon capsules to Mars in 2020.

NASA’s manager of science missions, Jim Green, said on Tuesday that the 2020 launch window when Earth and Mars are in favorable alignment for relatively short transits is getting crowded. Speaking Tuesday at the Humans to Mars conference in Washington, DC, Green said, “Every 26 months, the highway to Mars opens up, and that highway is going to be packed. We start out at the top of that opportunity with a SpaceX launch of Red Dragon. That will be followed at the end of that opportunity with another Red Dragon. Those have been announced by SpaceX.” NASA plans to launch a Mars lander in 2020 as well.

Two Red Dragon missions in 2020 have not yet formally been announced by SpaceX. Company spokesman John Taylor told Ars he would have to look into the question of sending two Dragons to Mars in 2020. However, other industry sources told Ars this is definitely under consideration by SpaceX, although no final decisions have been made.

That would mean two Falcon Heavy launches that year, just for this. And it would happen long before NASA manages its first launch of a complete SLS rocket.



  • Ted

    Two Dragons to Mars…. Puff1 and Puff 2?

    Apologies to Perter, Paul and Mary.

  • ken anthony

    Bad idea… Puff got abandoned.

    Meanwhile, every nation on earth could have a part in colonizing mars in much less than 100 years.

  • Gealon

    Joking aside, two launches three years from now? Plenty of time to include rovers on both spacecraft. I wonder if Space X will be taking payload proposals.

  • wayne

    “…can’t do a little, ‘cuz you can’t do enough…”

    “HR Puf-n-Stuf”

  • LocalFluff

    “I wonder if Space X will be taking payload proposals.”
    That’s certainly what they said they’ll do, and what would make sense for them. SpaceX considers itself a transportation company. Red Dragon is a regular liner to Mars for whatever paying customer there is. Like in classical shipping, they establish the line first to discover what demand there is for it once people realize that this new option now actually exists. If there’s only a 50/50 chance it might happen in a number of years, that really hurts investment calculations alot. Only when the option is a current fact does the big market start to look at how to take advantage of it. Today they don’t know that it is good for them, they haven’t had reason to consider it.

  • ken anthony

    Payload proposals:

    First lander should be a power storage source to power settlement precursor devices such as water and methane extraction (water and power gives you oxygen.) This could be a combination of nuclear, solar panel and backup methane engine generators.

    A lander with live soil, seeds and a variety of live tasty fish.

    Two landers with complete parts for a 1000 kg tractor (which colonists can assemble in less than a day) an iron from dust processor and machinist tools. They will build tractor implements from mars iron. The first use of the tractors will be to dig trenches for permanent habitats and work areas.

    One lander per following colonist with 2,000 kg of survival food (2+ year supply with 25 year shelf life) as well as a multitude of plant seeds.

    Landers with industrial chemistry equipment and other specialized hand tools.

    Almost everything on this list.

  • PeterF

    They should land ALL the vehicles close to each other, preferably in a low altitude location. The higher the local average air pressure the better for pressure containment vessels.
    As Ken Anthony says, the first payload should be a fuel generator be able to refuel the lander motors. That way the landers could be used as “hoppers” if need be. Eventually, a “flying rover” could be sent that would be used for exploration. (like “Space1999”)
    Unlike the NASA mission profile set out in “the Martian” All assets should be set down close to each other rather than being foolishly spread out over the planet’s surface. Once a viable permanent base is established, then other areas can be explored.
    The method of exploration in “The Martian” is guaranteed to fail. Every visit to Mars would have thousands of failure modes that would end the program.
    I would postulate that even though they pulled off the greatest rescue in history, the program would have been terminated before they reached earth orbit.

  • wodun

    Prior to selecting a site to land humans, or their precursor equipment, a crewed orbiting ship/station should be used to teleoperate a fleet of robotic surveyors that investigate dozens of potential sites. After a site(s) is chosen for humans, excavation and other types of construction could be controlled telerobotically. Then when humans land, they can focus on their area while the station/ship above continues to aide them while also continuing work on other sites/projects.

    Along with the station/ship, a constellation of imaging and communication satellites should be deployed.

  • Edward

    I agree with wodun that a proper site should be determined before sending equipment for a more permanent base. The first two Dragons would do well to carry along equipment or instruments that would help determine the desirability of their landing sites for future missions to a more permanent base.

  • LocalFluff

    A number of flag and footprint missions in a wide variety of locations is a good idea before deciding on where to establish a permanent Mars base. One off expendable missions until we know how to do it regularly. Mars has climate zones and seasons. It matters whether you’re in the arctics or in Sahara or in Himalaya. And as for ISRU, there are only tiny places on Earth where mining is profitable. Research bases in Antarctic import drinking water although they are surrounded by water ice.

    ken anthony,
    Your back yard caterpillar is way too overambitious for today’s space flight. Curiosity has 1/6 of one horse power electric power, from a super expensive plutonium generator, less than one of them is produced each year. You can drill a two inch hole every fourth month with that. Unless the drill jams, which unfortunately has happened.

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