Elon Musk says Mars-bound Starship spacecraft is now 'top priority' for SpaceX

48-year-old billionaire has frequently spoken of his ambition to die on the Red Planet

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 08 June 2020 11:53 BST
The Starship space craft built by SpaceX could land on the moon by 2021, Elon Musk claims
The Starship space craft built by SpaceX could land on the moon by 2021, Elon Musk claims (SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that the Starship spacecraft that will one day ferry humans to Mars is now the company's "top priority".

In a company-wide email, Mr Musk urged employees to accelerate the development of the next-generation rocket "dramatically and immediately".

The internal email, which was obtained by CNBC, came just a week after SpaceX successfully launched two Nasa astronauts into orbit aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft to join the International Space Station (ISS).

"Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship," he wrote in the email.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SpaceX first unveiled the Starship prototype in 2019, revealing a stainless steel spacecraft capable of carrying up to 100 people on missions to the moon and Mars.

It is one of three major SpaceX projects, along with the Crew Dragon space program and the launch of the Starlink constellation, which aims to deliver 12,000 satellites into orbit for the purpose of beaming high-speed internet back down to Earth.

Work on the Starship craft is currently split between SpaceX's Los Angeles headquarters, the Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida, and the Starship production complex near Austin, Texas.

In order to advance the development of Starship, Mr Musk urged SpaceX employees to "consider spending significant time" in Texas.

He wrote: "For those considering moving, we will always offer a dedicated SpaceX aircraft to shuttle people."

Mr Musk has previously spoken of his concerns that current progress of space technology means that humans will not make it to Mars in his lifetime.

Speaking at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington in March, he revised previous estimates stated in 2018 that a SpaceX craft could be ready for a trip to Mars as early as 2025.

"The thing that concerns me most right now is that unless we improve our rate of innovation dramatically, there is no chance of a base on the moon or a city on Mars. This is my biggest concern," he told the audience.

"We've got to improve our rate of innovation or, based on past trends, I am definitely going to be dead before Mars."

The 48-year-old has frequently spoken of his ambition to die on Mars, though always with the caveat, "just not on impact."

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