May 1 to 16 is Science Odyssey, a celebration of all things science! OWLconnected is recognizing this two-week event with lots of science content, as well as with an amazing contest, presented by our friends at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Details are at the end of this post—be sure to enter!
It's no secret that the most ambitious company in spacecraft tech is SpaceX. Though it's not alone—Virgin, Boeing, and i-Space are all making big moves—Elon Musk's company has taken huge steps to revolutionize how humans leave Earth.
Their Falcon rockets and Crew Dragon capsules are now the go-to vehicles for NASA. These reusable vehicles are a first for space travel, saving money and (hopefully) reducing the problem of space junk. But Musk's plans are even grander than that. He wants to launch a starship.
As in Starship, a reusable vehicle that is basically the new Space Shuttle. Prototypes of the vehicle have been built and tested and launched for a while now. The only problem? The landing.
The first four test landings of the SpaceX Starship have all ended the same way—with the vehicle blowing up!
That's sort of a problem! But on May 5, SpaceX's presistence paid off. SN-15 (Starship Number 15) landed safely and without incident. Success!
‘The Starship Has Landed’ pic.twitter.com/vkSloRjUmE
— Everything SpaceX (@spacex360) May 5, 2021
What does this mean?
During the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s, the Space Shuttle was the flagship vehicle of NASA. It was essentially like a outer space truck or RV. It could carry lots of cargo, a big crew, and act as a mobile lab. And, it could return to Earth and then be relaunched.
But since the Shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has lacked a vehicle like this. Everything—from human crew to satellites—have been sent up in small capsules. The Starship is SpaceX's attempt to bring the 'space truck' back. And Elon Musk is seeing this as a craft that will travel to the Moon and, one day, Mars. (And for the record, so is NASA.)
When will it be ready?
That's the big question. Musk says that he'll launch humans into space on Starship in two years. He also thinks that he'll send humans to Mars by 2026.
Ultimately, nothing is set in stone yet. Approving new space vehicles is tricky business and unexpected problems are the norm. But one thing that seems certain? At some point in time in the next five years, the 16-storey (72 m 236 ft) tall Starship will be a regular part of NASA's program. It's just another way that space exploration is quickly changing!
Watch the entire test launch of SN-15—from mighty liftoff to magnificent landing—in the video below!
Don't forget to enter the Science Odyssey Contest! Click HERE TO ENTER.