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Musk gets closer to landing on Mars

Starship enterprise off with a bang

By Ricky Browne

Bad news for environmentalists. It turns out there is a Planet B, and its name is Mars.

Or at least that is what Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX would have us believe, as he perseveres with his plan to get man to Mars within the next four to six years.

Planet A alongside Planet B

“Mars here we come” Musk tweeted on Wednesday, a few moments aftter his spaceship succesfully completed its first mission of flying to 12.5 km above the Earth’s crust.

The tweet was loved by more than 552,000 people. It was retweeted 63,000 times and commented on by 16,000 people.

“Thank you, South Texas for your support! This is the gateway to Mars,’ Musk tweeted.

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is a ” fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond”, SpaceX says.

“Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit,” the company says on its site.

The takeoff and flight to the stratosphere seemed to go perfectly, the unmanned rocket flying to eight miles above its launch site in Texas.

It was on the return leg that things didn’t seem to be going to completely to plan, when his rocket blew up when it had come back to Earth. Its complex landing sequence failed.

The RUD in action

But Musk was undeterred and seemed to shrug off the explosion.

“Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD,” Musk tweeted.

RUD is a cool-sounding three letter acronym (TLA) that stands for “rapid unscheduled disassembly” — basically meaning explosion or blowing-up.

The spaceship got a qualified thumbs-up from Musk

The official line made the RUD sound even more boring.

“On Wednesday, December 9, Starship serial number 8 (SN8) lifted off from our Cameron County launch pad and successfully ascended, transitioned propellant, and performed its landing flip maneuver with precise flap control to reach its landing point.,” SpaceX reported on its website.

“Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to high touchdown velocity resulting in a hard (and exciting!) landing,” it said.

It isn’t the first time that one of Musk’s rockets has suffered an RUD. Back in 2015, Musks’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded when it was trying to land on its drone ship.

But back then the reason for the explosion was that the rocket had used up too much of its hydraulic fluid, causing it to lose control and go into RUD, hitting the deck of the ship.

Planet Earth and its moon from afar

And RUD or not, it hasn’t stopped the Falcon from becoming a success. It has currently flown 100 total landings, 61 total landings and 43 reflown rockets according to the SpaceX website.

The Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond. the SpaceX site says.

“Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access” SpaceX says.

It isn’t only Musk that wants to get to Mars. The US Space Agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has a Mars Exploration Program, and explains its rational on its website.

“In the strategic sense, exploring Mars demonstrates our political and economic leadership as a nation, improves the quality of life on Earth, helps us learn about our home planet, and expands US leadership in the peaceful, international exploration of space,” NASA says.

“This endeavour also serves to inspire the next generation of explorers and dramatically expand human knowledge,” NASA says.

“The strategy has evolved as we have learned more about Mars and as more questions have arisen. We have gone from “Follow the Water” to “Explore Habitability” to “Seek Signs of Life.” NASA says.

ABOUT MARS

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in our solar system, coming after Earth. Its diameter is about half that of Earth and its gravity is about a third of ours.

It is the seventh largest planet in the solar system.

The red planet as taken by the NASA hubble telescope

Once, the planet would have looked like Earth, with water and possible life. But — even without polluting humans — the planet now appears to be lifeless with no oceans, although that doesn’t mean that water doesn’t still exist, or that life doesn’t exist in some form.

Man’s machinery has visited the planet, in the form of rovers and landers, showing scientists a dynamic, windblown landscape that could perhaps have microbial life.

Mars rotates on its axis at a slightly slower speed than Earth does, so that a solar day (sol for short) is 24 hours and 37 minutes, compared to 23 hours and 56 minutes on Earth.

Mars also has seasons like Earth. But because it is so much further away from the sun, it takes a lot longer for it to complete a complete revoloution — taking about 669.6 sols, or 687 of our Earth days to revolve around the sun, compared to our 365 days, 5 hours, 59 minutes and 16 seconds.

The climate temeperature on Mars is a lot colder than on Earth, thanks again to its distance from the sun. The coldest temperature is -130 degrees celsius (-284 degrees Fahrenheit). But it can have very pleasant temperatures as well, with a high of 30 degrees celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). That compares to Earth, where the coldest temperature is -88 degrees celsius (126 degrees Fahrenheit), and a high of 58degrees celsius (136 degrees Fahrenheit).

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