SpaceX starship prototype takes big step towards Mars with first small ‘hop’

Big metal silos can fly!

GIF by Eric Mac / CNET

Elon Musk and SpaceX took their latest steps towards Mars and declared humanity the goal of making it a multi-planet species … by shooting a giant metal thermos into the Texas sky on Tuesday evening.

The company performed approximately 500 feet (150 m) of “SN” of its SN5 starship prototype at its Boca Chica development facility at 5 pm PT.

The nearly nine-story-tall test craft ignited its single raptor engine and slowly rose into the air before it slowly returned to the ground and did not land far from where it flew. .

Shortly after the engine first ignited, the SN5 seemed to be struggling to get airliner, but then it rose above its smoke, loomed and came to a soft landing. It traveled a small stretch of more than 35 million miles, with Musk hoping the last starship would cross to take mankind to Mars.

The long-awaited low-altitude test flight comes after a handful of previous prototypes failed to land, mostly during pressure testing.

The SN5 is designed to be capable of an orbital flight, but before being pushed towards space, it first had to complete this comparatively small hop.

The nearly 98-foot-tall (30 m) vehicle is a stripped-down version of what the final starship spacecraft would look like, without a nose star or wing. It is 30 feet (9 m) wide and is basically a fuel tank and single raptor engine topped with a weight that emulates a payload. The resulting shape is something like a thermos many will recognize.

Musk tweeted this footage of the launch late Tuesday:

It’s already been a big August for SpaceX with the company Crew Dragon spacecraft is returning successfully NASA astronauts Bob Bacon and Doug Hurley fell down from the International Space Station and into the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.

“Mars is looking real,” Musk tweeted after Hope.

It is crazy to think that the interplanetary journey can begin with this brief and bizarre looking flight. Can’t wait to see the next big step on this long journey.