SpaceX is working to push the boundaries of space exploration. Engineers are developing the next-generation launch system that will usher in a new era of human space exploration. NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to develop the Starship Human Landing System (HLS) that will return astronauts to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program by 2025.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk says they are developing a lunar-optimized Starship that could enable the agency to create a permanent science research laboratory on the Moon. “[…] We got to go back… we ought to have a permanent base and if the costs are good enough …” he said that they could build a lunar science lab during the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (SEM) 183rd Space Studies Board meeting. During the conference last week, Musk was asked if SpaceX has thought about how to protect astronauts against solar storms, “…On our way, we’ll have to check the weather report,” Musk said regarding solar storms that might occur on a journey to the Moon. He said that once on the Moon astronauts could build shelters underground. “For Mars it’s gonna’ be trickier… we don’t have all the answers here, maybe some clever ways to reduce radiation effects but I don’t think their insurmountable.” SpaceX says on its Starship User Guide that the crew configuration of the spacecraft will include "private cabins, large common areas, centralized storage, solar storm shelters and a viewing gallery."
Musk has mentioned on multiple occasions that SpaceX plans to build ‘Moon Base Alpha’, a permanent lunar base comprised of Starship vehicles that can be used as work stations and habitats for future lunar explorers. “[…] No need to bring early ships back. They can serve as part of Moon Base Alpha,” Musk said last year. Starship will be capable of carrying over 100 metric tons of cargo to orbit, no other rocket can liftoff that amount of payload mass in a single mission. With that massive amount of cargo capacity, SpaceX could launch dozens of rovers and hardware for different companies and organizations that want to explore the lunar surface.
SpaceX’s Starship fleet will enable humanity to have the capability to send thousands to the Moon long-term. Each vehicle can transport up to 100 passengers inside its 1,000 cubic meter pressurized cabin, no spacecraft in history has been capable of transporting that many passengers. The giant spacecraft could also be transformed into a vehicle that can support multiple science research labs for various companies and organizations. Starship could also potentially replace the International Space Station (ISS) one day. The spacecraft could be launched to orbit our planet for months at a time, so that astronauts can continue contributing to science research in microgravity once ISS is retired.
The first lunar mission will land cargo on the Moon, before landing astronauts. The company previously said they aim to conduct the first cargo lunar mission by 2022, before launching the first circumlunar crewed voyage in 2023. “[…] We want to stage cargo there to make sure that there are resources for the folks that ultimately land on the Moon by 2024, if things go well, so that’s the aspirational time frame,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said last year – “Elon puts out these incredibly audacious goals and people say ‘You’re not going to do it, you’ll never get to orbit, you’ll never get a real rocket to orbit….you’ll never get Heavy to orbit, you’ll never get Dragon to the station, you’ll never get Dragon back, and you’ll never land a rocket’…So, frankly, I love when people say we can’t do it, because it motivates my fantastic 6,500 employees to go do that thing,” she said. Ultimately, SpaceX will use the Moon as a stepping stone to send the first Starship carrying cargo to Mars to prepare to send the first Red Planet human explorers within this decade.
SpaceX is currently preparing to conduct Starship’s first orbital flight test that will help engineers speed-up the spacecraft's development next year. The vehicle is undergoing testing at the Starbase facility in South Texas. You can watch a 24/7 Livestream of the Starship launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in the video below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
VIDEO: 24/7 SpaceX's Starship Launch Pad Livestream
Featured Image Sources: SpaceX & NASA/Photo collage edit by Tesmanian.com