Science

The SpaceX prototype flight brings mankind closer to Mars – Outer Messenger

What impressed most about the test flight of SpaceX’s future prototype SuperX rocket, the Starship, which took place in Boca Chica, Texas on the 9th, was how much the vast majority of the press didn’t understand. While the enthusiasts were thrilled by six minutes and 42 seconds of “vivid dream”, the news outlets saw only a silver spaceship that crashed and exploded. At CNN Brasil it became a source of contempt. The appropriate feeling was joy.

Let Elon Musk and SpaceX rival say Jeff Bezos in this new space race. Through his company Blue Origin, Bezos is fighting with Musk for a place in NASA’s plans to bring people to the moon in the coming years. After the flight, he wrote on Instagram: “Anyone who knows how difficult this business is, is impressed with today’s Starship test. Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team. “

No, it wasn’t a rocket that “exploded right after takeoff”. It was a prototype of a second stage rocket, a whopping 50m high and 9 in diameter, which launched as planned and walked to the maximum planned height of 12.5km with (intentionally) three, then two, and then one engine You with flaps on your stomach (something that has never been done) to control free fall with aerodynamics (something that has never been done), then straighten up at the last moment to the vertical position (something that never has was done) and go with the flap exactly on the intended platform (as planned) only two of the three motors – but with too high speed. And then we had the explosion.

Even before the game, Musk said the chance of getting back all over the floor was 30%. It would be bigger if SpaceX thought about what others would think and opted for a more conservative flight profile, like that in the early stages of Falcon 9, the company’s most traditional rocket. The aim, however, was to carry out the most aggressive test possible, regardless of the preservation of the vehicle itself. Because? First, the more you “push the envelope” and push the system to its limits, the more you learn. Second, SpaceX would likely never re-launch the late SN8 prototype, whether or not it hit the ground.

Let’s not lose sight of Musk’s goal: to promote the colonization of Mars. This not only requires a reliable and thoroughly tested vehicle. many identical vehicles are required. Part of learning from SpaceX was to develop the spaceship while developing the technology to make many replicas at low cost. While the SN8 was doing its fascinating demonstration, the SN9 was ready, the SN10 and SN11 in the final stages of integration and the prototypes SN12 to SN16 partially built.

The difficulty landing the SN8 has been identified (low pressure in the upper tanks) and there are reasons to believe that the SN9 will be able to fly this year. And with that there will be more learning for 10, 11 … But whoever saw (and understood) the SN8 flight knows that Mars actually seemed to be within human reach for the first time.

This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.

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