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Elon Musk’s SpaceX is one step closer to Mars.
The space travel company launched and successfully landed for the first time a prototype of its Starship rocket, which the company intends to use to send people and cargo to Mars.
It was the fifth high-altitude test flight for the company. The previous four tests ended in massive explosions before, during or shortly after the landing of the rocket.
“Starbase Flight Control has confirmed, as you can see on the live video, we are down. The Starship has landed!” launch commentator John Insprucker announced.
The rocket soared more than six miles over the Gulf of Mexico before flipping and descending horizontally, and then turning vertical again just in time for touchdown at the southeastern tip of Texas. The flight, in whole, lasted about six minutes.
A small fire broke out at the base of the 160-foot rocket after the landing, but the blaze was quickly contained.
The successful flight came on the 60th anniversary of the flight of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. It marks a major breakthrough for the company, which Musk has predicted will help land humans on Mars by 2026.
The billionaire Tesla CEO, however, has also admitted that “a bunch of people will probably die” in the process.
“You might die, it’s going to be uncomfortable and probably won’t have good food,” Musk said last month to Peter Diamandis, the founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation for scientific discovery. That hasn’t dampened Musk’s enthusiasm.
In 2015, Musk discussed putting a city on Mars after a successful rocket landing by SpaceX. He published a paper in June 2017 on making humanity a multi-planetary species, laying out plans for having as many as 1 million people on Mars.
Musk isn’t alone in the billionaire battle for Mars.
Wednesday’s successful launch came shortly after SpaceX rival Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced that it plans to launch its first astronaut crew to space this summer.
The two companies, backed by the two richest people in the world, are locked in a heated space race. Last week, Blue Origin officially challenged NASA’s decision to award a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX, prompting Musk to muse on Twitter, “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.”
That appears to be a reference to the fact that Blue Origin has not yet achieved orbit with any of its rockets.
With Post wires
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