Speculations claim that CEO Elon Musk and SpaceX is rebooting its Mars mission. Today, NASA announced that the commercial space company has officially confirmed that it is moving its Red Dragon program back to the burners.

SpaceX’s initiative to explore Mars

SpaceX originally announced its plan to launch an undertaking coined as the “Red Dragon” mission. The mission was originally scheduled to deliver an unmanned space lander to the red planet Mars sometime in 2018. SpaceX represented by CEO Elon Musk entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA whereby the latter agreed to provide the commercial space company with the navigation and communication requirements of the “Red Dragon” mission.

The experimental craft will blast off on a Falcon Heavy rocket. Earlier this year, however, SpaceX announced that the launch of the mission was bumped to 2020. And today, NASA confirms that SpaceX officially announced its plans of putting the mission back to the burners.

About a month ago, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk announced the company’s plan of reinventing their next generation Dragon capsules. The said capsules were originally designed to transport astronauts and other cargo to NASA’s International Space Station. According to Space Flight Now, the new generation of SpaceX Dragon capsules will no longer be equipped with the capacity of performing precision landings similar to helicopters. Instead, returning space crews on board the capsule will have to use parachutes and splash down on oceans upon landing.

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The robotic “Red Dragon” craft was supposed to be an unmanned version of the Crew Dragon capsule. In the original craft concept, SpaceX publicized that the craft will be equipped with jet packs. The packs which shall be mounted on either side of the craft will enable it to control lower its speed upon entering the Martian atmosphere and subsequently, perform a rocket-assisted touchdown. The recent overhaul which strips the rocket with such capacity led many to doubt the future of the “Red Dragon” mission.

NASA confirms 'Red Dragon' mission push-back

NASA’s Planetary Science Division head Jim Green announced that SpaceX officially confirmed with the agency that the “Red Dragon” mission has been placed on the back burner. The director said that the agency is not putting any pressure to Elon Musk and will be open for a discussion whenever he is ready. Green added that although the agency agreed to navigate SpaceX’s “Red Dragon” to Mars, the decision to pursue the journey to the red planet was solely up to him. NASA continues to believe that the Space Act Agreement with SpaceX is a good deal.

Amidst the challenges faces by the “Red Dragon”, NASA calls for more support on the matter of space exploration. According to Futurism, acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot, Jr. believes that private commercial companies such as SpaceX are the true future of space exploration.