SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has never made a secret that he wants to go to Mars, and soon. Plans for an unmanned landing in 2018 using a Red Dragon capsule were announced earlier this year, and now in an interview with the Washington Post the tech entrepreneur has given a broad outline of a proposal that could see a manned mission touching down on the Red Planet in 2025.

The proposed 2018 landing would be the start of an intense program of sending ships to Mars every two years as Earth and Mars come into opposition. This is the time that the planets are at their closest and the least fuel is required to reach Mars.

These missions would be used to gain experience in interplanetary navigation and how to safely landing ships on Mars and would carry experiments and rovers – not all of which might be built by SpaceX. Each of these would launch from Earth using the 27-engine Falcon Heavy carrying the Red Dragon capsule. This would be designed to slow down using the Martian atmosphere for braking and the capsule's Superdraco rockets for final descent.

The landings would culminate in a manned mission touching down in 2025. This would use SpaceX's planned Mars Colonial Transporter, which is scheduled to first fly in 2022 and is designed to not only carry explorers, but, as it says on the tin, colonists.

"Essentially what we're saying is we're establishing a cargo route to Mars," Musk told The Post. "It's a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It's going to happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it's going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments."

Not surprising for the man who won the Heinlein Prize in 2011, Musk plans for the landing to be privately funded, with NASA providing technical support in exchange for data acquired by the venture. He also admits that there's a large element of risk for the first pathfinders to Mars.

"It's dangerous and probably people will die — and they'll know that," says Musk. "And then they'll pave the way, and ultimately it will be very safe to go to Mars, and it will very comfortable. But that will be many years in the future."

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