Elon Musk’s Starship explosion mid-air raises hopes - GulfToday

Elon Musk’s Starship explosion mid-air raises hopes


Elon Musk. File

The explosion of Space X’s Starship rocket soon after its lift-off is being described as a “success failure” by observers and experts. It is a known fact, especially in the space business, that failures are not unexpected, and the lessons they teach are invaluable. Elon Musk, the owner of electrical vehicle Tesla, is also the owner of Space X.

There are three private entrepreneurs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Virgin’s Richard Branson and Musk, who have come into the space travel segment with daring and hope. They wanted to take over from United States’ National Aeronatautical and Space Administration (NASA) which had been a lone player in the field, both of building rockets and training astronauts.

There is plenty of failure, disasters in NASA’s history, including the death of astronauts. Musk’s Space X has been able to introduce the war horse Falcon 9 to ferry astronauts between the International Space Station (ISS) and back. What Musk was planning through Starship was the audacious thing of building the largest space vehicle which will travel to Mars and come back, and also carry astronauts apart from carrying Martian rocks and soil back to earth.

So, the explosion of Starship is being seen as a big lesson of what needs to be done for a successful space flight in the future. It can be said that Musk and his company have taken the explosion without too much ado because Musk is aware that on this path, failures cannot be avoided, and that they are useful steps to success.

Musk has the right temperament for the space enterprise, full of hope and hazard. When the Italian Christopher Columbus set out to discover a route to India in the east, and ended up sighting a new land and continent, he must have faced the same sense of uncertainty before he tasted success. Musk is indeed in the mould of Columbus.

There seemed to have two problems that have been detected in the Starship explosion. First, the powerful Raport engines malfunctioned during the ascent, and in the final state the booster rocket and Starship failed to separate. The engineers of Space X are sure to get down to setting these problems right. It is to be remembered that many space programmes involving the failure of rockets exploding mid-air after take-off is not an unfamiliar sight, and it was witnessed in the case of NASA as well as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). And lessons were learnt. In the case of Musk, he takes the rap for failure and loss of money. And he remains unflappable on this count because he understands that this is indeed part of the onward journey.

Garrett Reisman, astronautical engineer, former NASA astronaut and Space X adviser, explained the failure as “a classical example of successful failure”. He said that Space X saves a lot of money in the long run through this failure. He said, “I would say the timeline for transporting people (aboard Starship) is accelerated right now to what it was a couple of hours ago.”

Planetary scientist Tanya Harrison of the British Columbia University Outer Space Institute said that clearing the launch tower and ascending through the critical point known as maximum aerodynamic pressure were clear achievements in this failed first flight. She pointed out, “It’s part of the testing process. There are a lot of accidents that happen when you’re trying to design a new rocket. The fact that it launched at all made a lot of people really happy.”

She said it would not be surprising if Starship took humans to Mars in the next decade. Musk’s ambitious space venture, which is unsupported by government and it depends entirely on the money he puts in it, is a daring enterprise.

Related articles