From Scientific American:
On the second day of the IAC, during a special keynote entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars.
The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead. [SpaceX’s Red Dragon: A Private Mars in Pictures]
In the past, Musk has detailed his intention to use a Red Dragon spacecraft to fly to Mars in un-crewed mode in the 2018 time period. Later flights of the craft would transport humans to the planet.
Using supersonic retro propulsion to touch down on the Red Planet, the Red Dragon may well deploy scientific devices, particularly hardware that could demonstrate made-on-Mars propellant.
Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX, underscored her firm’s Mars plans on Aug. 9 at the 30th annual Conference on Small Satellites, held at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.
“If you talked about this 15 years ago we probably would have been institutionalized,” Shotwell told a standing room only audience. “The conversation has changed … now we can talk about going to Mars,” she said.
Shotwell said retro-propulsion is “really the answer” contrasted to airfoils, parachutes and ballutes. “In addition, retro-propulsion will scale. We’re not talking about dropping 10 tons on Mars. We’ll be dropping hundreds of tons on Mars … dropping, I mean, settling down gently.”
A key SpaceX propulsion development for Mars is the Raptor, a liquid oxygen/methane engine, Shotwell noted, pointing out that the first Raptor engine will soon be test fired.
In terms of what a 2018 un-crewed Red Dragon might take to Mars, “we haven’t figured out how do you get stuff in Dragon onto the surface, but we’re working on …