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Elon Musk says first SpaceX orbital flight could come in March — a key step to Mars

SpaceX boss Elon Musk said that the first-ever orbital flight of his Starship rocket could take off as early as this March — a key step in eventually realizing his goal of building human colonies on Mars. “This is the first point in the 4.5-billion-year history of Earth that it has been possible,” Musk said on Thursday. “We need to seize the opportunity and do it as quickly as possible. I want to be frank: Civilization is feeling a little fragile these days.” Musk told employees at his Texas-based company he was confident that the world’s most powerful rocket would reach orbit sometime this year. He made the comments while standing near the 390-foot high rocket at the company’s spaceport in Boca Chica near the Gulf Coast. “This is really some wild stuff here,” he said. “In fact, hard to believe it’s real.” The timing of the launch will depend on final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which must sign off on the last stage of the rocket’s development. Musk said he expects the FAA to give the go-ahead in March and that the rocket should be ready to fly by then as well. That would put the launch in the next couple of months, he added. Musk has big plans for Starship, the ambitious, fully reusable heavy-lift rocket made of stainless steel. The Starship program has experienced its fair share of setbacks, including some spectacular explosions and crashes. But Musk said on Thursday that the company is ready to unveil its final product. Besides Florida’s Cape Canaveral and the southern tip of Texas, Starships could ultimately launch from floating ocean platforms anywhere in the world, Musk said. He envisions Starships launching three times a day — “rapid reusability” — with refilling stations in space for the longer destinations like Mars. The first refilling test could happen by the end of next year, he said. Musk has said he hopes to have the rocket orbit the moon before the end of next year. Musk has also stated that he wants the rocket to land humans and cargo on Mars by 2026, which is when Mars and the Earth will be closer to each other in the solar system. The mission to the moon, which will take six days, will be carrying Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of other passengers. Musk estimates a Starship launch could wind up costing less than $10 million — maybe even just a few million dollars with a high flight rate, which would bring down prices. He called it “crazy low” and “ridiculously good” by current space standards. SpaceX was chosen by NASA to build a lunar lander, which is scheduled to reach the moon in 2024. With Post wires

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