By Kyle Van Pelt
On the evening of September 28, owner of SpaceX, Elon Musk, unveiled what is by far the largest, longest-ranged spacecraft ever constructed. The 50 meter tall Starship mk 1 will be placed atop the 67 meter Falcon Super Heavy to create the entire launch vehicle collectively called Starship. The Starship prototype has a cargo bay capacity of slightly over one hundred tons and is slated to orbit the Earth and return to the planet’s surface in 2020. With both primary components of Starship being reusable and the massive carrying capacity of the spaceship, Mars colonization is finally plausible.
Starship is an absolute technological marvel, again marking a time when SpaceX built something generally believed to be impossible. The booster intended to carry the Starship mk 1 will not only utilize greater thrust than any other man made device, but it will also be capable of landing and being re-used. Even Musk himself acknowledged, “A rapidly reusable orbital rocket is only barely possible given the physics of the Earth.” Now he intends to land the most powerful launch system ever created.
The Starship mk 1 itself is capable of carrying greater mass than any other spacecraft deeper into space than anything except a few small observational vehicles such as Voyager and Cassini. The Starship mk1, as well as mk2 and 3 which are being built, are steel vehicles instead of the much more expensive carbon fiber generally used in most spacecraft. Steel is significantly heavier than carbon fiber; however, it is much more durable, making it more suitable for deep space flight and many return flights to Earth.
Ambitions are extremely high at SpaceX, for they intend to use multiple Starships to carry droves of people to the Moon and Mars. Musk claimed each Starship would eventually be able to safely carry about one hundred people into deep space. If a capability anywhere near the scale of this feat is achieved, the only remaining obstacle to Mars colonization is the Martian environment itself, thus bringing humanity a step closer to realizing a dream of several generations.