HAWTHORNE , Calif., July 28 (UPI) -- SpaceX is probably spending about $300 million for its unmanned Red Dragon mission to Mars, NASA estimates.
At a NASA Advisory Council committee meeting on Tuesday, deputy associate administrator Jim Reuter told the gathering SpaceX's spending on the unmanned mission was about 10 times what the government agency is currently spending on the Red Planet.
The mission, which could launch as early as May 2018, will receive technical support from NASA.
Reuter told the committee he didn't know how SpaceX was financing the mission and the company has not said an estimated cost.
Reuter also said the unmanned mission will feature a craft similar to what the manned crew will eventually fly in but stripped down and will carry a solar array.
NASA has gotten behind the Red Dragon mission because Reuter said "We determined there was a reasonable likelihood of their concept being a successful mission," he said. "We thought our expertise would enhance that."
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said he plans to launch the first manned mission to Mars in 2024, with the crew landing in 2025.