Three to four years from now, according to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the business might make a Mars landing.
The remark was made while Mr. Musk participated in a videoconference on Thursday at the International Astronautical Congress in Azerbaijan, along with additional information on the development of SpaceX’s massive rocket Starship.
On Reaching Mars, A Quotation
In an hour-long question-and-answer session, Mr. Musk said to Clay Mowry, the head of the International Astronautical Federation, “I think it’s sort of feasible within the next four years to do an uncrewed test landing there.”
The Year 2022 Sums It All Up.
Mr. Musk and SpaceX have a long history of making notable advances in spaceflight. This includes routinely reusing the booster stages of SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rockets after landing: The business has launched 70 times so far this year.
But Mr. Musk also has a history of achieving his objectives far later than expected.
During the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Mr. Musk initially showed his Mars rocket before moving on to the Interplanetary Transport System, a larger rocket. He forecast that SpaceX would make its first human-manned mission in 2024 and its first unmanned landing on Mars in 2022.
Mr. Musk has stated that a second Starship is prepared. But the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to grant SpaceX a new launch license, despite the possibility that it will happen this month.
Mr. Musk discussed some of the modifications to the Starship’s changing design on Thursday. Before the second stage separates from the booster during the second flight, its engines will start to fire. This technique, known as “hot staging,” can be challenging.
The second-stage engines are essentially “blasting the top of the booster,” according to Mr. Musk. “From a physics perspective, this is actually the most effective approach.”
Although Mr. Musk no longer projects placing humans on Mars in 2024, he still has other technologically ambitious plans for Starship in 2019. SpaceX intends for the rocket’s Super Heavy booster to not only return to its launch site but also hover over the ground as two arms on the launch tower catch it in flight in order to facilitate quick turnaround between launches. When the Starship returns from orbit, the upper stage will execute the identical procedure.
According to Mr. Musk, there is “a decent chance” of catching a rocket this year and perhaps even a Starship from orbit before the year is over.
Furthermore, according to Mr. Musk, SpaceX might begin launching its next-generation Starlink satellites as early as next year using disposable Starship stages that are not recycled.
What Wasn’t Said: When will the NASA spacecraft Starship set down on the moon?
Just a few sentences of the chat between Mr. Mowry and Mr. Musk mentioned SpaceX’s significant contribution to Artemis, NASA’s program to return astronauts to the moon. During the Artemis III mission, two NASA astronauts will travel in a modified version of Starship from orbit around the moon to a landing area near the south pole.
“Are you creating a lunar lander version?” Added Mr. Mowry.
Mr. Musk accepted this before changing his tune and asserting that the spacecraft SpaceX was developing for NASA would only have minimal alterations from a spacecraft intended to settle on Mars.
The launch of Artemis III is presently slated for late 2025, but NASA officials have said that timeframe may move to at least 2026.
A few months ago, James Free, NASA’s assistant administrator for the development of exploration systems, stated that the agency had received an updated Starship development timetable and was currently analyzing it.
Mr. Free stated in August that if not all the technology components were prepared for a moon landing, “we may end up flying a different mission.” He did not specifically mention SpaceX.