Will NASA Send a Dragon to Mars?

I was at a very interesting event earlier this evening at NASA Ames during which SETI’s Pascal Lee and Mary Roach, the author of “Packing for Mars,” discussed human missions to the Red Planet. When the topic turned during the Q&A to Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars, moderator Chris McKay of NASA made a bit of news.

McKay said that Musk had told him that at every point where SpaceX had to make choices on Dragon about materials, heat shield strength and other issues, they chose to design the vehicle for Mars flights. That shines a new light on the video above, which shows a Dragon landing on the Red Planet. The side-mounted retro-rockets are useful not just for targeted touchdowns on Earth but for missions elsewhere.

McKay also revealed NASA is conducting a study on how the agency might send a drill to Mars aboard an unmanned Dragon capsule. I’m not entirely sure how the drill would be deployed, but it’s a really interesting idea. This would be a great way to test out a Dragon on the Red Planet.