Elon Musk says he is Very Close to his Dream to Send People to Mars

Elon Musk said on Thursday he was "highly confident" his new SpaceX Starship, designed for voyages to the moon and Mars, will reach Earth orbit for the first time this year, despite a host of technical and regulatory hurdles yet to be overcome.

The billionaire SpaceX founder and CEO addressed a throng of news media and supporters at his company's "Starbase" facility in Boca Chica, Texas, for a presentation that combined a high-tech pep rally with big-screen videos and a question-and-answer session.

It came nine months after the private California-based space venture achieved the first successful launch and touchdown of a Starship prototype rocket in a test-flight after four previous landing attempts ended in explosions. 

Musk acknowledged difficulties SpaceX has faced in developing the "Raptor 2" engines for its Super Heavy rocket, a reusable next-generation launch booster designed to carry the Starship spacecraft to orbit. He cited problems with melting inside the thruster chambers of the engines from intense heat.

 

But he said, "we're very close to solving that," and expected to scale up production to about seven or eight of the engines a week by next month and produce a new Starship and a booster every month by year's end.

"I feel at this point highly confident that we will get to orbit (with the Starship) this year," said Musk, who also heads electric car maker Tesla. 

Such a time frame would mark an ambitious feat, even for an uncrewed orbital test flight of the Super Heavy/Starship combo, the next step up from SpaceX's current workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk said has flown 144 successful launches and 106 return landings. (Reuters). 

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