Elon Musk says ‘humanity will never get to Mars’ as launch delayed

Elon Musk has posted an angry message on Twitter, telling the US Federal Aviation Authorities that “humanity will never get to Mars” because it didn’t approve a test flight of SpaceX’s Starship when he wanted.

The spacecraft was on the launchpad and primed to fly on Thursday, fully fuelled with propellant, but the green light to ignite never came.

Mr Musk lambasted the “fundamentally broken regulatory structure” for the FAA, which scrubbed Thursday’s launch until Friday without providing an explanation on its website.

Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure.

Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 28, 2021

The FAA’s role in space launches is to prohibit commercial air traffic within the zone of the launch and to give the all-clear ahead of ignition.

Writing on Twitter, the SpaceX billionaire said the FAA’s rules were tailored “for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars”.

Starship and his launch vehicle Super Heavy were unveiled by Musk in 2019. The pair are designed to carry a crew and cargo “to the moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system” and land back on Earth perpendicularly instead of horizontally, Musk said.

SpaceX's first super heavy-lift Starship SN8 rocket explodes during a return-landing attempt after it launched from their facility on a test flight in Boca Chica, Texas U.S. December 9, 2020
Image:Last month’s test launch ended in flames

A launch last month resulted in the rocket ship crashing in flames just minutes after launch from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

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For about five minutes, the 50m-tall stainless steel craft soared over the Gulf of Mexico before turning sideways as planned and heading back towards Texas, near the border with Mexico.

The engines reignited but on touching down, the self-guided rocket exploded and its parts flew everywhere.

The test flight had lasted just six minutes and 40 seconds – a blow for SpaceX’s boss Elon Musk, who has said he wants the rocket to carry people to Mars in as little as six years.

Mr Musk blamed technical problems with the rocket, saying “fuel header tank pressure was low” during the descent, causing “touchdown velocity to be high”.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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