Elon Musk is sticking with optimistic plans for the SpaceX Starship on Mars, saying in an interview that the first crewed mission of the next-generation rocket to the Red Planet could come as early as 2024 “if we get lucky.”
Musk said he’s confident the goal will be achieved by 2026, but didn’t throw out his previously stated quicker timeline during a webcast Tuesday with German media company Axel Springer.
“I feel fairly confident about six years from now,” Musk said. “Earth-Mars synchronization occurs roughly every 26 months, so we had one this year, this summer, and that means roughly that in about two years there will be another one and then two years after that. So I think I’d say if you say six years from now, I think highly confident. If we get lucky maybe four years.”
While talking with the media giant’s CEO Mathias Du00f6pfner as the recipient of its Axel Spring Award for 2020, Musk said the first uncrewed flight to Mars for Starship he hopes would come in 2022.
Musk said he himself could be flying in orbit in two or three years, but he’s focused now on making sure SpaceX achieves what it needs to to accomplish his dreams of Mars colonization.
“I’ve always been concerned with developing the technology that can enable a lot of people to go to Mars and make life multiplanetary, have a base on the moon, a city on Mars,” he said. “I think it’s important that we strive to have a self-sustaining city on Mars as soon as possible. I’m optimistic about the future on Earth but it’s important to have life insurance for life as a whole.”
His long-term goals include eventually living on the Red Planet. When asked by Du00f6pfner, “Do you seriously want to be buried on Mars?” Musk replied, “Just not on impact.”
SpaceX this week has plans to send a test version of Starship to an altitude of 15 km from its Boca Chica, Texas facility. The SN8, as in Serial Number 8, version of Starship will use three Raptor engines to make the flight and attempt to safely land back at the Texas launch site.
The Starship design is meant to be used for both suborbital point-to-point flights on Earth and for deep-space missions such as to the moon and Mars. The full version will feature six Raptor engines, stand about 165 feet tall and have a 100-passenger capacity.
The large version of Starship would be coupled with a Super Heavy booster with 37 Raptor engines combined for Mars colonization plans.
Musk has previously stated the company was aiming for an uncrewed mission by 2022 and first humans to Mars by 2024, but testing timelines have slowed since those plans were laid out in September 2019. At the time Musk said he expected orbital flights by mid-2020 and crewed missions by the end of the year.
Design changes and COVID-19, though, have slowed the pace for SpaceX, although Starship testing had ramped up over the summer.
To date, prototypes of Starship have only flown to 150 meters using a single normal-size Raptor engine.
Plans are for SpaceX to continue proving out flight ability for Starship with higher altitudes, and eventually orbital test flights. The tests follow a similar method it used when developing its Falcon rockets. Starship is the company’s eventual replacement for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
(c)2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.