SpaceX’s Red Dragon Mars Lander Mission is no secret, but its budget sure was until now. According to NASA, Elon Musk’s Mars undertaking is spending around $300 million on the mission.
NASA also said that it will provide technical support to SpaceX worth $32 million over a period of four years. The $6 million of that has been allocated to the fiscal year 2016.
The Hawthorne-based company has said it will send its unmanned Dragon 2 spacecraft to Mars by 2018. That mission will demonstrate a way to land large payloads on Mars without using parachutes or other aerodynamic decelerators. The agency is providing this assistance in exchange for the data that will be collected by the company.
A Reuter report said that the $32 million would go towards paying the salaries of the employees who give support to SpaceX.
SpaceX has declined to comment on the estimated amount that they have allocated to spending on the mission. The company has not published any reports on how much the mission will cost and how is it planning to finance the trip.
The aim of Red dragon is landing heavy payloads, as mentioned earlier. Mars has a very thin layer of atmosphere as compared to that of Earth. So the pressure is one-hundredth as that of our planet. This makes the landing of anything heavy, a very difficult feat to achieve. The Curiosity Rover (approximately 1,982 lbs) was the heaviest payload that has been landed on the Red Planet.
Elon Musk said that if a colony has to be established there, equipment weighing much more than a ton have to be landed on it. The Red Dragon is supposed to be their solution to it. It is equipped to make propulsive landings, with the help of embedded thrusters.
However, before launching in 2018, the company has to pull off major feats like sending Falcon 9’s that can produce enough thrust to land the heavy payloads required. It is going to fly later this year.
SpaceX’s primary focus has always been their Mars mission. At this rate, they estimate that people will start traveling there commercially by 2024. Musk strongly believes in this extremely ambitious timeline.
In another news, NASA has sent astronauts underwater on a sixteen-day mission to test types of equipment that are to be used in the mission. This shows the sense of urgency among the two organizations to fulfill the mission.