In the latest revelation from Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, his company may be on track to land a spacecraft on Mars within the next four years.
SpaceX needs no introduction. The spacecraft manufacturing giants have recorded many giant strides in the area of spaceflight and exploration, including the development and launching of rockets. In what may seem like an attempt at another lofty goal, the company is planning to launch a spacecraft to Mars in a few years.
Musk, made this revelation while speaking via a video conference at the International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan. Musk also expressed optimism about the planned launch of SpaceX’s Starship, saying the most powerful launch vehicle in the world stands “a decent chance” of succeeding.
Recall that earlier this year, precisely on April 20, SpaceX attempted a launch of the Starship for its first uncrewed test flight from its facility in Boca, China. However, the mission encountered a setback a few minutes after takeoff.
The upper stage of the vehicle was unable to separate from the lower-stage, leading to its explosion in mid-air. As a result, what was supposed to be a 90-minute debut flight lasted less than four minutes.
During his presentation at the congress on Thursday, Musk expressed SpaceX’s unwillingness to “set expectations too high,” considering what happened in April. However, he is positive that the Starship rocket can finally fulfill its long-term potential of successfully ending up on Mars.
The realization of this goal remains to be seen. But for now, SpaceX will focus on retrieving Starship after it was grounded in September by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to the FAA, the decision to ground Starship was informed by its findings at the end of an investigation into the explosion. Multiple potential causes were identified, resulting in the FAA requiring SpaceX to address 63 corrective actions to prevent a reoccurrence of such incidents in the future.
However, the launch license could be ready as early as this month (October), as noted by acting FAA Administrator Polly Trottenberg, who spoke with Reuters shortly after the report.
While SpaceX claims to have addressed these issues, the company has not yet received the necessary launch license from the FAA. In addition to regulatory approval, SpaceX must secure environmental clearances for its launches.
While Musk’s vision of landing on Mars by 2027 is ambitious, the path ahead for SpaceX’s Starship program is challenging. There are a number of regulatory hurdles to overcome and technical complexities to resolve.
But if there is anyone you can bet on to make this happen, then it is Elon Musk. SpaceX’s transformation of the spaceflight landscape in the last two decades is an indication of what the company can do.
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