Young people growing up a century down the line will be taught about how the people of the 2020s broke free of the limitations of the Earth to begin to live on other heavenly bodies. We are truly living in exciting times.
Remember that less than a year has passed since the National Ignition Facility in California achieved fusion energy breakeven. This year the fusion power startup, Helion, announced that it is so far along in its development that it has contracted to sell electricity from its fusion power plants to Microsoft and Nucor (the steel company) before the end of this decade. Other fusion startup companies are not that far behind in their efforts to bring fusion energy to life as the future primary source of electricity and space propulsion.
Then there was the Saturday, November 18th second flight test of the SpaceX Starship/Superheavy. Wow! The importance of this flight could not be better expressed than by the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk:
For the first time, there is a rocket that can make all life multiplanetary.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 19, 2023
A fork in the road of human destiny. pic.twitter.com/qBZL0tW9EY
Musk had originally conceived the Starship system as the means to get a million tons of equipment and supplies to Mars. He figured that any attempt to create a self-sustaining city on Mars would require that magnitude of freight delivery from Earth. So, Saturday’s accomplishment puts us well on the way to reducing the cost of delivering a ton to the Moon or Mars by perhaps a factor of 100. And that makes all the difference! That is how you move from exploration to settlement.
Remember how the Erie Canal reduced the price of moving a ton of grain from the Great Lakes to New York City from $100 (or more) per ton to $4 per ton! Of course our cities on the Moon and Mars will look a bit different, but many principles are universal.
The Erie Canal at Syracuse, New York ca. 1900. credit: Library of Congress Public Domain
Take a look at this photo by space photographer John Kraus:
Another shot of today's Starship launch. I'm still at a loss for words. What an incredible launch, and to take place at such a beautiful time of day... wow, wow, wow. pic.twitter.com/6b41Kfj7n5— John Kraus (@johnkrausphotos) November 18, 2023
Those bright lights are 33 Raptor engines putting out about 16.7 million pounds of thrust, as compared to the 7.7 million of the Saturn V, or the 8.8 million of the Space Launch System (SLS). The exhaust plume was 1,000 feet long! The Super Heavy first stage successfully performed its mission of boosting the Starship (the black part of the rocket above) toward its intended circumnavigation of the Earth. The Starship successfully separated from the Super Heavy and then continued accelerating on its route for several minutes until it self-destructed.
The Super Heavy also self-destructed as it was changing course to head back towards Starbase and land in the Gulf of Mexico. Building this system involves solving a series of problems as they come up. And the problems only come up once you begin to test and fly. Some problems cannot be tested or simulated on the ground. Only flight test will do.
And this flight proved that (1) the Super Heavy booster is already able to launch the Starship (or any other second stage system) and (2) the Orbital Launch Mount and tower are able to easily withstand the rigors imposed upon them by the 16.7 million pounds of thrust. That is a huge step forward! An investigation by SpaceX and the FAA will go forward to analyze these results, but it is important to know that the factory at Starbase is set up for mass production of the Starship/Super Heavy system. Now that the Launch Mount and the Super Heavy have proven their capabilities, the launch pace will pick up. SpaceX intends for the Starship to replace the Falcon 9 system which is now flying every 2 or 3 days, and accelerating to one launch almost every other day next year. SpaceX hopes to begin commercial Starship flights to orbit next year.
Despite the destructive orientation of the Biden administration and Biden’s personal hatred for anything initiated by President Trump (or envisioned by Lyndon LaRouche), NASA is still planning to launch the Artemis II crewed mission around the Moon next year atop an SLS rocket. (The first time that any person has gone outside of Earth orbit in over 50 years!) And NASA is counting upon using a modified Starship to land astronauts on the Moon in Artemis III and some later flights. So everyone has a stake in the success of the Starship system.
Besides the excitement demonstrated by the observers from the Texas side, this amateur video of the crowd and the launch from the Mexican side is indicative of the global interest in the success of this project. Turn off your TV and think about the meaning of this to the world and to you and your posterity for awhile. I find that people who tune out the lies of the Orwellian propaganda machine are much happier—and more productive too!