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At a time when the future of life on Earth looks in doubt, Elon Musk and his revolutionary companies are a beacon of hope. Four years ago, Musk released Tesla’s electric vehicle technology, realizing that it could potentially save the world from climate change. Now as some parts of America are colder than Antarctica, he is reminding the world that we must move to sustainable energy for a sustainable future.
For Musk, it’s just a matter of getting it done.
Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2019
Moving to clean energy here on Earth is clearly a prime motivator for Musk, but he’s also showing signs this week that he’s dead serious about making it to the Moon as quickly as possible. He’s been showing off the power of his Raptor rocket engines on Twitter, which recently left company’s factory in Hawthorne, Calif., and headed out to be tested at a SpaceX facility near McGregor, Texas.
“First firing of Starship Raptor flight engine! So proud of great work by @SpaceX team!!”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 4, 2019
In another series of Tweets, Musk revealed details about how he intends to get the Starship Raptor to outer space.
“Initially making one 200 metric ton thrust engine common across ship & booster to reach the moon as fast as possible. Next versions will split to vacuum-optimized (380+ sec Isp) & sea-level thrust optimized (~250 ton).”
Ars Technica pointed out that Musk appears to be streamlining his designs and focusing on missions to the Moon, just as the Trump administration has instructed NASA to make missions to the Moon a top priority.
“This comment is notable for a couple of reasons. First of all, the company appears to have decided to streamline the Raptor engine to a single design that will power both the rocket at liftoff, and the spaceship in the upper atmosphere and outer space. It will take less time to develop, test, and qualify a single engine. It will also cost less money,” wrote Eric Berger.
It’s not just NASA that is catching Musk’s eye. SpaceX may also focus on lunar orbital flights to suit Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa’s #dearMoon project. Maezawa was the first person to buy a ticket to ride on Musk’s yet-to-be-built rocket around the Moon. The globally renowned art collector plans to bring half a dozen artists on the journey.
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In addition to getting artists in space, Musk knows that getting off the ground now would be the perfect window for garnering interest (and maybe contracts) with NASA. Since space travel is easily something that could quickly bankrupt any company, the prospect for funding is critical.
According to Ars Technica:
“There is an added benefit to this approach: for the next two decades, NASA appears likely to be highly interested in developing infrastructure near and on the Moon. By flying Starship on early test flights to the same destination, SpaceX has a far greater chance to win government contracts for the delivery of cargo, and potentially astronauts, to the Moon. Heretofore, neither NASA nor the US military has shown much if any interest in SpaceX’s ambitious rocket and spacecraft.”
The ambitious goals of SpaceX have already come at a high cost to the company’s workforce. In January, ten percent of the workforce was let go. The company is not only streamlining the workforce, but also the designs for their rockets, including the so-called Super Heavy rocket.
“…initial versions of the Super Heavy rocket will likely fly with fewer than 31 engines, and the launch system’s reaction control thrusters will have a simpler design.”
In a January 30 investors’ call, Musk revealed why his companies have been forced to lay off workers.
“We have to be super hardcore about it. SpaceX has two absolutely insane projects that would normally bankrupt a company, Starship and Starlink, and so SpaceX has to be incredibly spartan with expenditures until these programs reach fruition,” said Musk.
With a new practical focus, we’re hoping that SpaceX can get off the ground and colonize the moon. After all, if Tesla technology can’t save us here on Earth, we may need somewhere else to go, and fast…
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Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube