NASA wants to hitch a ride on SpaceX's upcoming Mars missions

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Jun 13, 2016, 6:34 PM EDT

NASA’s Mars mission plan is looking less and less defined with each congressional hearing, but Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to but humans on the Red Planet in less than a decade — and they’ll be landing ships there within five years. Well, it looks like NASA might be hitching a ride.

Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said via Space News that the space agency has a “wish list” of technology and payloads they’d like to piggyback on SpaceX’s Red Dragon capsule when the private company starts firing off unmanned ships to Mars in 2018. With just two years to turn it around, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll make the cut for that first mission, but NASA is keeping a close eye on SpaceX’s subsequent mission schedule.

NASA has actually made an agreement with SpaceX to offer technical support to SpaceX for the 2018 mission, while SpaceX will share its data with NASA. Considering this will be one of the biggest crafts ever landed on another planet, that info could prove invaluable for future Mars missions once NASA actually starts sending more gear and people. The Dragon capsule will attempt to use supersonic retropropulsion to land, and if it works, it’ll serve as a proof of concept for a much more efficient way to land on other planets.

Once NASA eventually gets some tech piggybacked on a Dragon capsule, they’re likely going to include technology designed to extract water, oxygen, or other resources from the Martian surface or atmosphere. Which, again, once we start sending people could really come in handy.

(Via Space News)