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SpaceX is planning to send a rocket to Mars in just 2 years

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Tesla Motors and SpaceX's Elon Musk thinks he can send a rocket to Mars even sooner than expected.

"As soon as 2018," SpaceX, a private space exploration company which touts itself as the "future of space travel," tweeted Wednesday, bumping up plans to send its Dragon capsule to Mars by four years.

While the Red Dragon rocket will not have any human passengers on board, the company hopes it will help expand scientists' knowledge of Mars's architecture for future trips and eventual colonization.

SpaceX founder and CEO Musk (who also founded PayPal and is the CEO of Tesla) has long set his eyes on Mars, developing SpaceX to address the many, many challenges associated with sending humans 34 million miles away from earth. The company's Red Dragon mission has made significant strides in that direction in attempting to develop the world's most powerful unmanned rocket capable of landing on Mars, collection samples, and returning to Earth.

SpaceX's Dragon missions, which already have helped NASA transport goods to the International Space Station, have played a crucial role in bringing the United States back to the forefront of space exploration. SpaceX is planning to launch a capsule of seven NASA astronauts to the Space Station by 2017.

With NASA experiments already underway testing different ways to address the challenges of living and researching in space, SpaceX's new launch date is a strong indicator that Mars is getting (figuratively) a little bit closer.

Go deeper:

  • Two years ago, SpaceX's Dragon capsule established itself as the future of space travel. Joey Stromberg explains why.
  • NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned to earth after a nearly a year in space. Vox's Brian Resnick lays out why his time in space plays a larger role in future travel to Mars.
  • The International Space Station is getting a giant inflatable house this spring to test different living habitats that could one day give astronauts more living and lab space on longer missions.

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