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SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans ( 161

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

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SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans

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  • Is this "tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport" really true?! Who could have thought about such a tiny issue to be so relevant! Isn't it enough with just doing some tests and simple calculations in a model and then scale the conclusions up? Or just taking what works in situations without people and adding the having-humans-there factor? Hopefully, videos showing technology which has never been created before will continue being a very reliable source of engineering knowle
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @09:04AM (#54845247) Journal
      Meh. While people here are busy pointing out how unrealistic Musks plans are, why his ideas will never work, and of course spouting the tired old line about Why We Shouldn't Do Manned Space Exploration, Musk is getting shit done. And yes, there will be many setbacks along the way, and changes of plans. The reasons for those changes are a little more complicated than a simple "ha ha they didn't think of that" or "dumbasses forgot there's different rules for man rated spacecraft". If anything, SpaceX has made space exploration a bit exciting again, and cheaper at the same time. And I think that's great.

      Sure, the personality cult around Musk is a bit scary and laughable at the same time (they always are). But the guy does deserve some credit. If anything he's a good example of "big dreams, small steps".
      • the guy does deserve some credit

        I give him credit for whatever doable business idea he might have to probably become successful. He didn't even lose my trust when he moved outside his comfort zone (car manufacturing, space travelling, etc.) and expected to revolutionise those fields by applying ideas which didn't seem to belong there. I cannot give him credit for making miracles, because this is what some of his plans (e.g., Hyperloop or going to Mars anyone soon) need.

        I am sure that if anyone can get out reasonably well from what seems

        • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @11:36AM (#54846103)

          I give him credit for at least *trying* to do things that are ultra-long shots at best.

          People come up with long-shot ideas *all* *the* *time* yet they are never willing to put in effort, or risk their reputation or finances to do them. Can't say that about Musk - he knows that if he fails there will be people gleefully tearing at his corpse cackling "TOLDYASO TOLDYASO." Those same people will, of course, consistently move the goal posts when he succeeds at something, sniffing disdainfully, "It wasn't that hard!"

          Anyway, with Musk, tbh, I think his cult following is kinda hilarious, but he seems to be trying to use it to try and get big shit done and doesn't seem to be hurting people in the process, so I don't really have a problem with it. The world needs brash people who set stupidly ambitious goals and only achieves 10% of them every bit as much as they need play-it-safe types who set eminently reasonable goals and achieves 90% of them.

          • The world needs brash people who set stupidly ambitious goals and only achieves 10% of them every bit as much as they need play-it-safe types who set eminently reasonable goals and achieves 90% of them.

            I am all for supporting people taking risks, even crazily stupid risks. These are the people definitively having a higher impact on human evolution. They are also the ones bearing much more prejudices, pressure and unfair attacks than anyone else; they are also the ones feeling more lonely and unsupported. I will always do my level best to somehow help and motivate these people. Unfortunately for him, Elon Musk seems to have passed from risky (even kind-of-crazily risky) but possible and potentially benefic

  • Lots of people out there are underestimating that it takes to do space travel. As usual, reality is stepping in to put everyone in their place.
    • No, all you need to do is build Space Factories and mine asteroids and fill the hull with asteroid dust to protect it from radiation. I have a whole blog that explains how to do it.

      Space Nutter
  • There is nothing on Mars we want or need.

    This is a Big Business dream shot to profit in a complete do over with them at the wheel instead of the founding fathers.

    That way they can correct all the mistakes the founders made and allow themselves unencumbered profit.

    • >There is nothing on Mars we want or need.

      It has a non-Terrestrial surface, possibly with sufficient mass to provide enough gravity for a human to be healthy, possibly with sufficient resources to create a long term self-sustaining colony.

      It's a place to start a second instance of human habitation, just on the off chance something bad enough happens on Earth to wipe out all higher life (including, more specifically... us).

      It's a place to learn about how to survive off Earth. Sure, it's rough (for really

      • We are better off moving under ground.

        • In the short term or for a 'normal' extinction event? Yes, absolutely.

          A big enough rock (though unlikely at this point in the Solar system's life) could reliquefy the entire planet. It's happened before. Digging under the surface won't help when the entire surface is molten.

          On a long enough time scale - ~700 million years - the planet will be too hot, there will be very little life left, the carbon cycle will have stalled. Mars will look pretty damn good long before that.

          And that's just the 'eggs in one

      • It would be useful to learn how to keep people healthy going to Mars and living on it. Mars almost certainly has no resources worth sending back to Earth, given the expense involved. A second home for humanity is a really long shot. It would require that Mars be absolutely self-sustaining and have a good deal of surplus. It would require a large population, which isn't happening any time soon. That would take centuries, at a minimum.

  • Bezos? Musk? Someone else?

  • Moving under ground

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb