Elon Musk has officially unveiled a new spacecraft designed to carry humans to Mars.
Yesterday, he showed off the latest prototype of Starship – a Mk1 version of the rocket that will undergo testing within the next one or two months.
The 50 metre-tall Starship will one day fly atop a booster called the Super Heavy and take astronauts to the moon as well as the Red Planet.
Musk hopes to send a Mk3 version of Starship into space next year, propelled by the mega-powerful Super Heavy.
“This is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen,’ the billionaire told an audience at the SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
‘So this thing is going to take off, fly to 65,000ft, about 20km, and come back and land.
‘So that giant thing, it’s really going be pretty epic to see that thing take off and come back.’
Discussing his plans for a test of the Mk3 Starship, Musk added: ‘This is going to sound totally nuts, but I think we wanna try to reach orbit in less than six months.
‘Provided the rate of design improvement and manufacturing improvement continues to be exponential, I think that is accurate to within a few months.’
Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently pulled off a successful test flight of a prototype called Starhopper.
This incredible feat of human ingenuity also caused disruption for people living nearby, with residents reporting disturbances to their day-to-day lives.
Starship slowly rose to a height of 152 metres above its launch pad in Brownsville, Texas, and propelled itself 198 metres eastward onto an adjacent landing platform, completing a successful low-altitude test of SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine.
Elon wants humanity to become an ‘interplanetary species’ and The Raptor engine is designed to power the early stages of his epic mission.
It ‘s a reusable two-stage booster taller than the Statue of Liberty and will be fitted to Starship – a space voyaging pioneer craft destined to touch down on Mars.
‘Congrats SpaceX team!’ Elon wrote.
‘One day Starship will land on the rusty sands of Mars.’
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About eight hours later, he then realised it resembled ‘R2D2’s Dad’ and told the world about this revelation in a tweet.
The prototype ‘hopper’ vehicle resembles a chrome water tower with four landing legs and was originally due to take off on Monday.
But wiring issue with one of the Raptor engines halted the countdown less than a second before ignition, Musk.
Elon Musk described the mistake as ‘rather embarrassing’ in a conversation on Twitter.
About a dozen people living in the adjacent village of Boca Chica, just over a mile from the test site, had been urged in advance by local authorities to vacate their homes as a precaution at the sound of police sirens that blared minutes before launch.
‘It almost looked like a cartoon or something,’ nearby resident Cheryl Stevens said just after Starhopper’ flight. ‘
After all the buildup, it was kind of nice to actually see it happen.’
The notices were circulated by sheriff’s deputies three days in advance and warned of a possible ‘overpressure event’ that could shatter windows and endanger anyone who did not evacuate their home.
Maria Pointer, another resident, set up cameras and invited photographers to her home. She said excitement surrounding the launch reminded her of ‘feeling like you’re going on a Ferris wheel.’
Other residents bemoaned SpaceX’s presence on the Texas coast and said they were frustrated with road closures and confusing public notices.
‘It’s kind of like a double-edged sword,’ said resident Terry Heaton, adding that access to the nearby beach was blocked off every time SpaceX attempted an engine test.
The next step for Raptor will be to carry out additional ground-based firings of the engine bolted to a stationary test stand, Musk said.
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