Elon Musk and SpaceX took their final step towards Mars and the declared goal of making humanity a multi-planetary species… by hurling a giant metallic thermos into the Texas sky on Tuesday night.
The company performed a nearly 150-meter (500-foot) “jump” from its prototype SN5 Starship spacecraft at its development facility in Boca Chica at 5:00 p.m. PT.
The nearly nine-story test craft set its single Raptor engine on fire and slowly rose into the air before gently returning to the ground and landing vertically not far from where it was. took off.
For a while after the engine was first fired, it looked like SN5 was struggling to fly, but then it rose above its own smoke, hovered, and entered for a soft landing. It has only traveled a tiny fraction of the more than 35 million miles Musk hopes the final spacecraft will cross to bring humans to Mars.
The long-awaited low-altitude test flight comes after a handful of previous prototypes failed without ever leaving the ground, mostly during pressurization tests.
SN5 is designed to be able to perform orbital flight, but before pushing into space it had to first complete this relatively tiny jump.
The approximately 30-meter-tall vehicle is a stripped-down version of what the final spacecraft will look like, minus the cone and fins. It’s 30 feet wide, and it’s basically a fuel tank and a single Raptor engine topped with a weight that simulates a payload. The resulting shape resembles a thermos that many will recognize.
Musk tweeted this footage from the launch on Tuesday night:
It’s already been a big August for SpaceX, with the companyNASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from the International Space Station and splashing in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.
“Mars looks real,” Musk tweeted after the jump.
It’s crazy to think that interplanetary travel could begin with this brief and bizarre flight. I can’t wait to see the next big step on this long journey.