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Elon Musk is aiming for Mars with the massive new rocket SpaceX is developing but, along the way, the company's founder thinks it may be useful for one of NASA's goals: Building a sustained human presence on the Moon.
SpaceX is in the early stages of manufacturing the rocket, called Starship.
"Starship will also be good for creating a base on the moon," Musk said in an interview with Popular Mechanics published Monday.
"We'll probably have a base on the moon before going to Mars," Musk added.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNBC earlier this month that he expects NASA will return to the moon soon, saying "the goal is to have the first human lander on the surface of the moon in 2024." Bridenstine said NASA's lunar plans are also "likely to be a public-private partnership," meaning the government agency will partner with companies like SpaceX to achieve this goal.
Starship is being built at the company's facility near Brownsville, Texas. Musk's company is currently working on a prototype of the rocket. The test version of Starship is shorter than the final version will be. Musk has said the test version is for low altitude "hop" flights (known as VTOL, or Vertical Take Off and Landing), which will not reach orbit.
SpaceX is building Starship to transport humans and cargo beyond Earth's orbit. Musk has advertised Starship as being able to transport up to 100 people to Mars.
The company is also deep in development of the Raptor engine that will power Starship. Earlier in February, Musk showed off a photo and videos of the company test firing Raptor in a series of tweets. A few days later Musk said Raptor passed a key milestone, achieving the "power level needed" to lift the company's Starship rocket. Starship will have seven Raptor engines on board, and the "Super Heavy" booster that launches it will have 31 Raptor engines.
Read the full interview by Popular Mechanics here.