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The Profound Potential of Elon Musk’s New Rocket (Zubrin Op-Ed)

13 May 2021, 15:10 UTC
The Profound Potential of Elon Musk’s New Rocket (Zubrin Op-Ed)
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

By Dr. Robert Zubrin, Nautilus, 05.12.21

In the late afternoon of May 5, SpaceX’s Elon Musk tweeted, “Starship landing nominal!” Musk is not known for understatement. But seeing that stainless steel behemoth soar was, for many, something more like phenomenal. Over 5 million people watched the spectacle on YouTube, perhaps many with bated breath, as every prior attempt at landing Starship had gone up in flames. Not SN15. This Starship, after having climbed 12 kilometers and then coasted down in a “belly flop” configuration—using its wide silver body as a brake—descended slowly, the force of its Raptor engines offering a soft, safe landing.

Some folks at NASA probably felt a sense of relief. To the astonishment of the space industry, in April, NASA had awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to modify Starship to serve as the system that’ll take astronauts to the moon. The favorite to win the job wasn’t SpaceX, but the heavyweight “National Team,” consisting of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, veteran aerospace contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper Labs. The selection was so unexpected that, when word of it was first leaked by the Washington Post, some well-informed observers refused to believe it. Politics suggested the ...

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