For the first time, a SpaceX Mars rocket prototype has landed successfully without ending in an explosion. The fifth high-altitude test for the company's next-generation Starship has finally been a resounding success.
The SN15 spaceship prototype that will hopefully one day take people to Mars lifted off from Starbase in Texas on May 5 and flew to an altitude of about 10 kilometers (6 miles). At that altitude, it began to hover for a short amount of time before it flipped horizontally, slowly coming back down to Earth.
This return was the most crucial part. As it approached the launchpad, the three-engine rocket flipped back to the vertical position and delicately got back to terra firma powered by two of its Raptor engines.
The closest SpaceX had got to this previously was back in March with SN10 but unfortunately, that exploded right after touch down. The first high-altitude test flight was SN8 back in December 2020, which also exploded on landing. SN9 and SN11 met the same fate.
The explosion of SN11 also raised considerable environmental concerns as the debris from the explosion rained down in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Starship SN12, SN13, SN14 are still being assembled so the space company moved forward with SN15, which has been upgraded significantly compared to the predecessors.
A future version of this spacecraft is expected to take NASA astronauts to and from the Moon as part of the Artemis mission, but currently, other private space companies are fighting NASA over the awarding of the contract to SpaceX.