SpaceX Unveils Silvery Vision to Mars: ‘It’s Basically an I.C.B.M. That Lands’ – by Kenneth Chang (New York Times – September 29, 2019)

“Mr. Musk originally had planned to use high-tech carbon fiber,
but switched to denser stainless steel. It is cheaper, easier to
work with, becomes stronger in the ultracold temperatures of space
and has a higher melting temperature that can more easily withstand
the heat of re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.”

BOCA CHICA VILLAGE, Tex. — As you drive east along Texas State Highway 4, it looks like a giant, shiny and pointy grain silo is rising out of the scrubby flatland at the tip of southern Texas. But it is the first version of a spaceship design that Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and founder of the rocket company SpaceX, hopes will be humanity’s first ride to Mars.

Within a month or two, he says optimistically, this prototype of the Starship spacecraft — without anyone aboard — will blast off to an altitude of 12 miles, then return to the ground in one piece.

“It’s going to be pretty epic to see that thing take off and come back,” Mr. Musk said late on Saturday at a SpaceX facility outside Brownsville, Tex., where Starship is being built.

The update on his mega-rocket was timed to coincide with the anniversary of SpaceX’s first successful launch 11 years ago. SpaceX has a steady business putting satellites in orbit and carrying cargo to the International Space Station. But whether the company can meet its founder’s aims of taking people to Mars is yet to be seen.

The company’s earliest rocket, Falcon 1, was just 68 feet high, 5.5 feet in diameter and could carry a payload of 400 pounds. Starship, by comparison, is 164 feet high and 30 feet in diameter.

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