During its flight test in Texas, SpaceX’s new Starship rocket took off from the launch pad in cinematic fashion — only to explode minutes later. To the uninitiated layperson, a rocket spinning out of control and going up in flames en route to space doesn’t sound look like a cause for celebration. So why is the SpaceX team cheering and patting themselves on the back?
Previously, SpaceX conducted a few low-altitude tests at their launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas. It was scheduled to launch earlier this week, but they had to postpone it due to a frozen valve. This flight test aimed to send the rocket into space, have it travel around the planet and end its journey by diving into the ocean off Hawaii. Of course, that’s not quite what happened. The rocket system has two sections that separate once it launches — the booster and the cruise vessel. It is possible that because they did not separate properly, the Starship failed.
But just the fact that it soared off the launch pad successfully, even if for a few minutes, is a major milestone. The Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. The potential it presents for scientists to explore space is massive.
Elon Musk, ever the optimist on and off Twitter, is taking the anti-climatic end as an opportunity to learn and prepare for the next launch. It’s definitely a huge step forward, one that he hopes will pave the way for future success. His tireless experiments with Twitter have come at the cost of advertisers and his online reputation. So, this is a significant win for him, even just on a personal level (not that the billionaire needs one, though).
Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship!
Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months. pic.twitter.com/gswdFut1dK
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 20, 2023
Musk’s vision is simple — colonise Mars and preserve humanity. In case of a tragic event that destroys Earth and effectively leaves us all homeless, he wants to make sure we become an interplanetary species. Ambitious, yes, but very on-brand. When he announced his plans for the Starship in 2017, he initially named it the BFR, or the Big Fucking Rocket. He later renamed it in 2018.
Humanity will reach Mars in your lifetime
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2022
NASA also has plans for the Starship. It hopes to send astronauts to the Moon through the Artemis missions. Since it’s a huge vehicle with the capacity to carry 150 tonnes of equipment, scientists are hopeful about being able to carry big telescopes into deep space or deploy communication satellites with its help.
The Starship’s test flight marks a significant turning point in space exploration. Elon Musk is confident that future generations will be able to identify as Martians. As of now, that’s still a distant and slim possibility. But scientists are eager to employ the Starship to research the great, limitless cosmos like never before.