If the SpaceX Twitter account is to be believed, we're just two years away from another Mars Mission.
The private spaceflight company announced plans to send its Dragon capsule to the red planet as soon as 2018, which would make them the first private company to do so.
The mission is typically ambitious and, whilst most agencies would hold a big press conference, its Twitter announcement is classic SpaceX.
Can They Do It?
The two-year timeline is definitely a big ask, but as SpaceX are the most exciting company in spaceflight at the moment, you shouldn't put it past them.
They will be working with NASA in a "no-exchange-of-funds" arrangement. SpaceX will handle the journey, Martian entry, descent, and landing side of things, and NASA will lend its technical support and communications networks. With the meeting of minds between the old space dogs and the new kids on the block, the trip is definitely doable.
If they miss their 2018 deadline, they'll have to wait until 2020 (space moves around a lot and you've gotta know what you're shooting at), but that might just give them even more time to develop sophisticated experiments to take with them.
Okay, But When Do We Send People?
SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, has always been pretty candid about having his sights set on Mars, and most people are in little doubt that exploration and even settlement are the eventual goals. So, you can be pretty sure that this is just the first big step towards manned missions in the near future.
NASA itself also has plans for manned Mars exploration some time in the 2030s, and this meeting of minds can only be a good step in the right direction.
Musk is expected to unveil at least a round outline for his plans for Mars sometime this year, and many are hoping that this will include some kind of colony. Musk himself has said that he hopes to retire to Mars.
Given the falterings in public-sector space exploration, it could be that the future of space travel is in private hands, and this is just the beginning.