Though SpaceX had worked to prepare for its first robotic mission to Mars with its Dragon spacecraft in 2018, Elon Musk's company will now shoot to make the trip in 2020.
“We felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell explained at a press conference before the company's successful Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral. "So we’re looking more for the 2020 timeframe for that.”
Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s largest and most weight-bearing rocket, has not been tested yet. The company hopes to use the rocket to launch the Dragon spacecraft on to Mars and test out if the lander can successfully lower itself to the surface. If it works, the spacecraft will be the largest vehicle to arrive on the red planet.
Last fall, Musk said he anticipated that the first manned mission to the planet would commence in 2026 and land on Mars in 2027.