Starship Has Deep Financial and Symbolic Importance to Elon Musk - The World News

Starship Has Deep Financial and Symbolic Importance to Elon Musk

Elon Musk has called it the “holy grail” for space technology.

Starship, a new SpaceX rocket system that launched for the first time on Thursday, has been his pet project for years, but one with symbolic and financial importance for Mr. Musk, the founder of the rocket company. In his vision, Starship is the vehicle that will one day take people to Mars and allow humans to become a multiplanetary species. In the shorter term, its ultimate success would extend the dominance of SpaceX in the business of global spaceflight.

Even before Starship broke apart roughly four minutes into a test launch on Thursday, it was a tall order for the new rocket, which is more powerful than anything that has made it to space. Although it made it off the launchpad on Thursday, Starship still has not made it to orbit years after Mr. Musk predicted it would.

In September 2019, he told people at a SpaceX event that the rocket would get to orbit “in less than six months.” Last year, for instance, he said that Starship would reach orbit in 2022 and called it one of his “2 main goals.

SpaceX has blown through those self-imposed deadlines, but a successful test would have brought a win for Mr. Musk as his other companies have experienced difficulties. Tesla, his electric carmaker, has been hampered by rising interest rates and heightened competition, leading it to slash prices on its vehicles. Twitter, the social media company Mr. Musk bought last October for $44 billion, has been affected by extensive staff cuts, service outages and revenue shortfalls, leading the billionaire to more than halve its valuation to $20 billion.

A successful Starship test might have helped Mr. Musk forget some of those pains.

“This absorbs more of my mental energy than probably the other single thing,” Mr. Musk said of Starship on a 2021 Wall Street Journal podcast. “But it is so preposterously difficult that there are times where I wonder whether we can actually do this.”

On Sunday, Mr. Musk tempered expectations. In an audio stream on Twitter, he said there were “a million ways this rocket could fail.”

“I would just like to set expectations low,” he said. “If we get far enough away from the launchpad before something goes wrong, I would consider that to be a success. Just don’t blow up the launchpad.”

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