Dramatic footage of the historic crash of a SpaceX rocket into the Gulf of Mexico

The SpaceX Starship launches for its fourth flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on June 6.

Boca Chica, United States:

SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket made its first-ever landing during a test flight Thursday, a major accomplishment for a prototype system that could one day send humans to Mars.

A dramatic video clip from a camera mounted on the spacecraft showed fragments of fiery debris flying from the spaceship as it descended over the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia, but it eventually held together and survived re-entering the atmosphere.

“Despite missing several tiles and a damaged covering, the spacecraft was able to land smoothly in the ocean!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on X.

“Today was a great day for humanity’s future as a spacefaring civilization!” he added.

The most powerful rocket ever launched from the company’s Starbase base in Boca Chica, Texas, at 7:50 a.m. (1250 GMT), before soaring into space and covering half the distance around the globe, in a journey that took about an hour and six minutes. .

With its fully reusable design, Starship is essential to realizing Musk’s ambitious vision of colonizing the Red Planet and making humanity a multiplanetary species.

Meanwhile, NASA has contracted for a modified version of Starship to serve as the final vehicle that will transport astronauts to the lunar surface under the Artemis program later this decade.

– Trial and error approach –

Three previous test flights have ended in the destruction of the spacecraft, all part of what the company says is an acceptable cost in its rapid, trial-and-error approach to development.

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“The payload of these flight tests is data,” SpaceX said on the X, a mantra the commentary team repeated throughout the flight.

Musk said the next challenge is to develop a “fully reusable, instantaneous orbital heat shield,” and pledged to conduct more tests to figure out how to make the spacecraft better withstand being thrust into the atmosphere at a speed of about 27,000 kilometers per hour (about 17,000 miles per hour).

About seven and a half minutes after liftoff, the first stage booster, called Super Heavy, made a vertical landing in the Gulf of Mexico, to loud applause from engineers at Mission Control in Hawthorne, California.

The chants grew louder in the final minutes of the flight. The ground crews screamed and screamed as the upper stage glowed fiery red, the result of the plasma field created by the friction of the vehicle flowing through the atmosphere.

Space enthusiasts around the world watched the event in awe, thanks to a live broadcast powered by SpaceX’s vast constellation of Starlink Internet satellites.

A piece of flying debris even cracked the camera lens, but in the end, the spacecraft stopped landing.

“Congratulations to SpaceX on a successful Starship test flight this morning!” “We’re one step closer to returning humanity to the Moon with #Artemis — and then looking to Mars,” NASA chief Bill Nelson wrote on X.

– Twice more powerful than the Apollo rocket –

The spacecraft is 397 feet (121 meters) tall with both stages combined — 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Its super-heavy booster produces 16.7 million pounds (74.3 meganewtons) of thrust, about twice as powerful as the Saturn V rockets used during the Apollo missions, and newer versions should be even more powerful.

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SpaceX’s strategy of conducting tests in the real world rather than in laboratories has paid off in the past.

Its Falcon 9 rockets have become workhorses for NASA and the commercial sector, its Dragon capsule sends astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, and the Starlink satellite internet constellation now covers dozens of countries.

But the clock is ticking for SpaceX to be ready for NASA’s planned return of astronauts to the moon in 2026.

To do this, SpaceX will first need to put a core spacecraft into orbit, then use multiple “Starship tankers” to fill it with supercooled fuel for the next flight — a complex engineering feat that has never been accomplished before.

China is planning a manned lunar mission of its own in 2030, and has recently had a better record than the United States in sticking to its timelines.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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