SpaceX has set its sights on Mars but a test of their SpaceX Starship craft exploded on December 9, 2020 shortly after launching at about 5:45pm. A statement by the company said this: “On Wednesday, December 9, Starship serial number 8 (SN8) lifted off from our Cameron County launch pad and successfully ascended, transitioned propellant, and performed its landing flip maneuver with precise flap control to reach its landing point. Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to high touchdown velocity resulting in a hard (and exciting!) landing.”
The craft lifted off successfully and reached the planned target altitude. At that point a planned maneuver did not appear to go as required. The craft appeared to lose control but then corrected its path. As it came in to land, it again lost control and crashed to the ground crumpling and exploding in a ball of fire.
SpaceX says the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. “Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit,” the company says.
Musk tweeted after the event: “Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!”
Although the test ended in a fiery crash, SpaceX says the test achieved many of the desired parameters for data collection. Founder Elon Musk has said publicly that he hopes to send the first humans to Mars on the Starship craft in 2024.