A Step Closer To Mars: What SpaceX’s Test Flight Means For Space Exploration

Finally, on April 10th, the much-anticipated test flight of SpaceX’s Starship Orbital (also known as Starship and Ship 24) is set to take place. This is a moment that has been waited for with bated breath by any who have carefully been following humanity’s journey to Mars and other great space explorations.

Starship is set to be the world’s most powerful rocket – it can fire up to around 17 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This will allow the rocket to take a lap around Earth on its test flight.

The test flight will mark an enormous moment in the history of space exploration: if it works out and continues to be successful through its subsequent trials, Starship could become the most powerful operational rocket in existence. Could this mean that humanity will be taken one step closer to our long-awaited dreams of Mars?

How Will The Starship Test Flight Work?

So, the test flight for the Starship Orbital has been set for April 10th, though a backup date of April 11th and 12th has also been set in case all does not go to plan. On this date, the rocket will take off Space X’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

Founded in 2022, SpaceX is Elon Musk’s company that designs, manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft. Musk launched the company with hopes of revolutionising space technology, and we can only hope that Starship is no exception to this promise.

If all goes to plan, Starship’s test flight will involve the rocket taking off and doing one lap of Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island Kauai.

According to documentation submitted by SpaceX to the Federal Communications Commission, from takeoff to landing, the entire flight should only take an impressive 90 minutes. This speed far surpasses the 6-day orbital flight that NASA’s Boeing Starliner took in May 2022.

But just how likely is it that the test run of Ship 24 will all run smoothly?

What Could Go Wrong?

Before any avid SpaceX fans get their hopes up, Musk has only given this initial test flight a 50% chance of completion. It seems we’ll need a little patience before Starship gets totally up and running as Musk plans to give the rocket a series of trials before this ship is considered operational and fit for human travel.

This initial test flight might still show some teething problems for Ship 24. Unfortunately, there is still a big possibility of malfunctions taking place.

In a static fire test completed on February 9th, the SpaceX team failed to get two of Starship’s engines to ignite, though Musk later tweeted that despite errors this was “still enough engines to reach orbit!”

Besides faulty engines, Starship may also encounter problems when needing to accelerate through the massive amounts of pressure present when going through Earth’s atmosphere.

Nevertheless, if the rocket passes its initial flight test and continues to have successful trials in the coming year, SpaceX has high hopes for what it could achieve in the future.

What Could Starships Flight Mean For Space Exploration?

Musk has long made statements and promises that, one day, he will deliver technology that can whisk humanity off to the Moon and Mars.

Such statements are often made by Musk on Twitter. He has already promised on the platform that “Humanity will reach Mars in your lifetime”. During his keynote address at Allen & Co’s Sun Valley conference in 2022, Musk also talked about his plans for the colonisation of Mars, musing how he thought of the planet as a “civilian life insurance” if a disaster ever did wipe out Earth.

Though this seems like a fantastical and futuristic promise, this kind of technology may not actually be in our too-distant future.

Starship has already entered into a $2.89 billion contract with NASA that it will carry humans to the Moon during its upcoming Artemis missions in 2025 and beyond.

Though Starship will stick to Moon travel for years to come, Musk stated in 2019 that SpaceX ultimately has plans to carry up to 100 passengers on trips to Mars to create a “self-sustaining city”.

The Mars Debate 

The Red Planet has been set on as humanity’s future colony because it exhibits a geological similarity to Earth. So, although we may be able to visit the Moon, we could hypothetically settle on Mars.

But whilst this is an exciting prospect, not everyone wants this kind of space exploration and colonisation. SpaceX has already faced criticism from Boca Chica locals for littering the area near the SpaceX base with rocket debris that has been threatening local wildlife.

If rockets are already damaging Earth, can it really be said that it is ethically right to take them into Space and to other planets?

Rockets can cause massive amounts of debris and pollution, and by taking humanity to other planets there is always the possibility that we will end up damaging and contaminating the life and environment of that planet.

On the other hand, as Musk drew attention to in his keynote speech, it’s hard to deny that colonising another planet would be pretty handy if a disaster ever did strike Earth.

Our planet is already dealing with monumental issues of overpopulation and environmental damage, and starting anew on Mars could give humanity a second lease of life.

Either way, it seems SpaceX is determined to redefine and revolutionise space exploration, and Starship could be one of the first very exciting steps on this galactic journey.