There’s nothing more disappointing than unleashing a rocket, only to have it burst into flames.
So just imagine the pain felt and embarrassment being felt by Elon Musk right now, who showed the world his giant, gleaming metal tube only to have it dramatically explode.
His firm SpaceX was testing the Starhopper at Boca Chica Beach in Texas, when something went badly wrong.
The craft was supposed to lift gently off the ground and then touch back down gently in a ‘hop’ taking it 65 feet off the ground.
But instead flames shot out of the rocket’s tip in an embarassing premature conflagration incident.
‘It appears as though we have had an abort on today’s test. As you can see there, the vehicle did not lift off today,’ said SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said.
‘As I mentioned before, this is a development program, today was a test flight designed to test the boundaries of the vehicle.’
There’s no shame in having flames shoot out of the end of your rocket because mishaps like this are just part of parcel of testing a spacecraft.
Starhopper is a test version of Starship, the craft Elon hopes to use to send humans to Mars.
We first saw the spacecraft earlier this year when photographs showed the craft under construction with what looked like its nose cone on the ground, waiting to be assembled.
Starship was previously known as BFR (Big Falcon Rocket or the Big F***ing Rocket).
Musk now believes humanity will be able to found a permanent settlement on the Red Planet in just over three decades.
‘It’s possible to make a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050, if we start in 5 years,’ he wrote on Twitter .
The billionaire said he’s planning to make the big move to the Red Planet and abandon Earth for good.
‘I know exactly what to do,’ the Tesla and SpaceX founder told HBO in an interview broadcast last year.
‘I’m talking about moving there.’
However, Musk was in no illusions about the danger of this endeavour.
‘We think you can come back but we’re not sure,’ he added.
‘Your probability of dying on Mars is much higher than on Earth.
‘It’s gonna be hard. There’s a good chance of death, going in a little can through deep space.’
The billionaire said he would work ‘non-stop’ to establish a base on Mars.
If you’re brave enough, you could even have a chance of joining him.
In 2018, Musk insisted the Mars colony won’t just be an ‘escape hatch for rich people’.
Speaking at SXSW, the billionaire hinted that people whose bank balance is in the red will also be allowed to live on the Red Planet.
It’s unclear whether they would actually want to do this because life on Mars is likely to be pretty rubbish at first.
Musk said it would only house ‘the most elementary infrastructure’ with ‘just a base to create propellant, a power station, blast domes in which to grow crops, all the sort of fundamentals without which you could not survive,’ he said.
So that means no nice old pubs, Greggs bakeries or any of the other things which make life semi-bearable here in the UK – at first.
‘There will be an explosion of entrepreneurial opportunity because Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs,’ he added.
Residents could expect a fairer form of government called direct democracy in which ‘everyone votes on every issue’, Musk said.
He hopes to send a spaceship to Mars as early as next year and build a colony to counteract the ‘risk of human extinction’, which he fears could happen at the metallic hands of a super-intelligent computer.
At SXSW, he also warned: ‘Mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes… I’m very close to the cutting edge of AI and it scares the hell out of me.’
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