Elon Musk is definitely getting a kick out of showing off the Starship, SpaceX's next-generation rocket, which he plans to send to the moon and, ultimately, to Mars.
The billionaire SpaceX CEO unveiled the completed version of the Starship prototype at an event at the company's facility in Boca Chica, Texas over the weekend. Musk promised that the 164-foot-tall, stainless steel rocket prototype will begin high-altitude test flights in the next few months.
Meanwhile, Musk has been sharing photos of the Starship's construction progress in recent months on social media, and he posted a short video of the inner workings of the rocket prototype on Twitter on Tuesday.
The 10-second video posted by Musk shows the view from inside the Starship's cargo bay, with the camera looking upward at the inside of the rocket's nose-cone.
Over the weekend, Musk posted a photo of the nearly-complete Starship, surrounded by construction cranes, along with the caption: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," a quote from the Dylan Thomas poem, "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night." Musk also retweeted a SpaceX tweet with a photo of the finished Starship prototype.
After unveiling the Starship prototype on Saturday, Musk remarked on being awestruck by the completed product in an interview with YouTube channel Everyday Astronaut that was posted online on Tuesday.
"Even when I'm exposed to this all day, it's still like 'Holy f---ing s--t,'" Musk says in the interview while looking up at the Starship rocket. "It's still mad to see it actually there."
Once the Starship begins high-altitude test flights "in about one to two months," Musk said at the unveiling on Saturday, the rocket prototype will take off to an altitude of 65,000 feet before aiming to land safely on the ground in order to be reused for future flights. SpaceX is aiming to have the Starship ready to reach space orbit at some point in 2020, Musk added, and that the Starship could begin transporting cargo to space, such as satellites, by 2021.
Musk and SpaceX have stated that their goal is to use the Starship to send a group of artists on a tourism flight around the moon sometime in 2023. Ultimately, though, Musk wants to use the Starship for unmanned flights to Mars by 2022, followed by flights transporting humans to Mars as soon as 2024.
The billionaire SpaceX founder and CEO has talked frequently about his goal of colonizing Mars, with Musk even suggesting that Mars colonies could terraform the planet to build sustainable cities within three decades and that the billionaire could eventually move to the Red Planet himself. Of course, there is some skepticism that Musk and SpaceX can meet those target dates for space travel, much less colonization, as Musk is known for setting aggressive timelines that do not always come to fruition.
However, SpaceX has already shown the ability to move relatively quickly when it comes to Starship, as the company completed the rocket prototype less than a year after Musk announced in January 2019 that the Starship would be constructed out of stainless steel, rather than carbon fiber, as originally planned.
"I've learned a lot of lessons about how to make things go fast and then I've propagated those lessons to the SpaceX team," Musk says in the interview with Everyday Astronaut. Musk adds that SpaceX has been able to accelerate the design and construction process on Starship by "taking the general approach of if a design is taking too long, the design is wrong. And, therefore, the design must be modified to accelerate progress."
That being said, SpaceX has seen some delays in the Starship construction and testing process. In July, Musk said SpaceX was aiming for full Starship flight tests within roughly three months, which puts the company slightly behind schedule. And, SpaceX's tests of its scaled-down rocket, the Starhopper, faced delays earlier this year, including a fireball that erupted from the prototype in an earlier test in July. Musk has also faced criticism over production delays at another of his companies, electric automaker Tesla, in the past.
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