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SpaceX: Elon Musk claims Starship may launch on a mission to Mars in just FOUR YEARS 


SpaceX’s Starship has a ‘fighting chance’ of launching on its first un-crewed mission to Mars in just four year’s time, founder and CEO Elon Musk has claimed.

Mr Musk made the comments over Zoom during the International Mars Society Convention, which was held on Friday October 16, 2020.

The Mars Society is a US-founded worldwide non-profit that works to promote the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.

First announced in 2016, the 160 foot-tall Starship — and the ‘Super Heavy’ booster on which it will launch — will be a reusable rocket system for deep space missions.

This year, SpaceX has launched two Starship prototypes — dubbed SN5 and SN6 — on test flights up 500 feet into the air from their launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. 

A later design — SN8 — is hoped will be able to reach an altitude of 12 miles above the Earth’s surface in the near future, Space.com reported.

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SpaceX's Starship has a 'fighting chance' of launching on its first un-crewed mission to Mars in just four year's time, founder and CEO Elon Musk has claimed. Pictured, a Starship prototype

SpaceX’s Starship has a ‘fighting chance’ of launching on its first un-crewed mission to Mars in just four year’s time, founder and CEO Elon Musk has claimed. Pictured, a Starship prototype

Mr Musk made the comments over Zoom during the International Mars Society Convention, which was held on Friday October 16, 2020. The Mars Society is a US-founded worldwide non-profit that works to promote the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet. Pictured, an artist's impression of a SpaceX Starship launching from a Mars settlement

Mr Musk made the comments over Zoom during the International Mars Society Convention, which was held on Friday October 16, 2020. The Mars Society is a US-founded worldwide non-profit that works to promote the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet. Pictured, an artist’s impression of a SpaceX Starship launching from a Mars settlement

‘I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,’ Mr Musk said in a conversation with Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society.

The so-called ‘transfer window’ represents the best opportunity — based on the alignment of the planets along their orbits — to launch a mission from Earth to Mars.

The windows only appear every 26 months. The last was in the July of this year — when the US, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched probes to Mars.

The next launch window will come around in 2022 — with Musk having his eyes apparently set on the one after that, in 2024. 

Were it not for the fundamental mechanics of the solar system that make these windows the most viable choice for launches, Mr Musk would try earlier, he said.

‘[SpaceX] would maybe have a shot of sending or trying send something to Mars in three years,’ the tech CEO mused.

‘But the window is four years away, because of them being in different parts of the solar system.’

First announced in 2016, the 160 foot-tall Starship — and the 'Super Heavy' booster on which it will launch — will be a reusable rocket system for deep space missions. Pictured: a graphic illustrating how Starship will travel to and from Mars, ferrying people and cargo

First announced in 2016, the 160 foot-tall Starship — and the ‘Super Heavy’ booster on which it will launch — will be a reusable rocket system for deep space missions. Pictured: a graphic illustrating how Starship will travel to and from Mars, ferrying people and cargo

'I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,' Mr Musk said in a conversation with Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society. The so-called 'transfer window' represents the best opportunity — based on the alignment of the planets along their orbits — to launch a mission from Earth to Mars. Pictured, Mars as seen by the Viking orbiter

‘I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,’ Mr Musk said in a conversation with Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society. The so-called ‘transfer window’ represents the best opportunity — based on the alignment of the planets along their orbits — to launch a mission from Earth to Mars. Pictured, Mars as seen by the Viking orbiter

‘SpaceX is taking on the biggest single challenge, the transportation system. There’re all sorts of other systems that are going to be needed,’ Dr Zubrin said.

‘My personal hope is that we’re gonna see Starship in the stratosphere before this year’s out, and if Elon is right, reach orbit next year or the year after.’

‘This will change people’s minds as to what is possible,’ he continued.

‘And then, you know, we’ll have NASA seeking to fund […] — or entrepreneurs stepping forward to develop — the remaining pieces of the puzzle.’

Were it not for the fundamental mechanics of the solar system that make these windows the most viable choice for launches, Mr Musk would try for Mars earlier, he said. '[SpaceX] would maybe have a shot of sending or trying send something to Mars in three years,' the tech CEO mused. 'But the window is four years away, because of them being in different parts of the solar system.' Pictured, an artist's impression of Starship descending towards the red planet

Were it not for the fundamental mechanics of the solar system that make these windows the most viable choice for launches, Mr Musk would try for Mars earlier, he said. ‘[SpaceX] would maybe have a shot of sending or trying send something to Mars in three years,’ the tech CEO mused. ‘But the window is four years away, because of them being in different parts of the solar system.’ Pictured, an artist’s impression of Starship descending towards the red planet

If SpaceX meets this ambitious target, then the firm would be making its first steps to Mars to in the same year that NASA’s astronauts return to the Moon. 

The firm is one of three picked by the American space agency to provide moon landers for the mission, which has been code-named Artemis.

Mr Musk has also announced his goal to carry wealthy space tourists on a trip around the moon in Starship before then, in 2023. 

WHY DOES SPACEX RE-USE ROCKETS AND OTHER PARTS?

SpaceX tries to re-use rockets, payload fairings, boosters and other parts to try to cut down on the cost of each rocket mission.

The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).

The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules.

The Dragon spacecraft are used as the final stage of SpaceX missions to resupply the International Space Station.

In an incredible accomplishment, the Falcon Heavy's side boosters landed smoothly back down to Earth on two separate launchpads about 8 minutes in

'The Falcons have landed' the announcers said, as people cheered and whooped wildly in the background

In an incredible accomplishment, the Falcon Heavy’s reused side boosters landed smoothly back down to Earth on two separate launchpads about 8 minutes in.

SpaceX is currently testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets. 

The payload fairings are clam shell-like nose cone halves that protect the craft’s payload.

SpaceX recovered a payload fairing for the first time in 2017.

During its first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018, the firm landed two of the firms side boosters simultaneously on separate launchpads.

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