Menu Menu

SpaceX edging closer to a manned Mars mission

The company’s Starship prototype successfully completes its first test-fire.

SpaceX’s dramatic test-fire of its affectionately named ‘Starhopper’ spacecraft on Wednesday was a first for the Martian prototype. As we all know, Elon Musk has desperately, and with the noblest of intentions, been trying to get humans on Mars for the better part of his entire lifetime. And this is the latest sign that his company is nearing that lofty goal.

It might just be us, but Musk is possibly a better asset to humanity when he’s focusing on this sort of stuff rather than rapping about deceased 2016 internet sensation Harambe the Gorilla (and no, i’m not joking).

The Starhopper is a precursor to Musk’s vision of a Starship vehicle that will one day make a manned mission to Mars. It didn’t go far on Wednesday, it must be said, making only a wee list off the pad before landing again.

But, as Neil Armstrong first said, one small step for Starhopper could lead to great leaps for mankind in the future. The little hop could lead to bigger ones, and, eventually, onto plains we’ve yet to conquer.

The prototype itself is a testing ground for technology that will be used in subsequent versions of the ship. The vision is a spacecraft capable of catting up to 100 brave souls into space via a powerful reusable booster called the Super Heavy, which will jettison back to Earth after takeoff. Some experts say that we can reasonably expect SpaceX to start thinking about this mission as early as 2020.

The Starhopper as it stands now is 18 meters (60 ft) tall and made of stainless steel. It was previously designed to be double this, but its nosecone (the top bit) blew over from 50-mile-per-hour winds and suffered damage earlier this year which is kinda sad.

SpaceX tested a new heat shield to protect the rocket during its re-entry of Earth’s atmosphere.

Although more details about the Starhopper are hard to come by, the Starship will be much larger. The final version will reportedly fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with a group of artists before turning its gaze to Mars. Which just goes to show that billionaires really do have all the fun.

C’mon SpaceX, let’s get to Mars. Or at least to the Moon again…