SpaceX unveiled a prototype of a rocket last week that could one day carry people to the moon or Mars and back to Earth. Elon Musk, CEO of the private spaceflight company, introduced the public to the shiny, massive Starship rocket on Saturday at a launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
“I think we should do our very best to become a multiplanet species, and we should do it now,” he said.
Musk, who is also the entrepreneur behind the electric car company Tesla, has cast grand visions before. In 2017, he said SpaceX would take two tourists to the moon and back within a year. The trip keeps getting postponed and now has an estimated launch date of 2023.
So far, SpaceX has not sent a single human into space, but it has accomplished something no other space agency has: The first-stage booster of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket can make a controlled descent over land, touching down without crashing. Astronauts previously jettisoned booster rockets into the ocean. Some were fished out for reuse while others were abandoned to the seafloor.
To carry people to the moon, Musk’s Starship will need a boost from a new megarocket that SpaceX is developing called the Super Heavy. In another month or two, SpaceX plans to test the Starship on its own, shooting it to an altitude of 12 miles and then bringing it in for a landing. —Lynde Langdon