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Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Starship can land on the moon by 2021

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said he believes his team can land its Starship spacecraft on the moon as early 2021, with a crewed mission following a year or two later.

Musk made the comments last week in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine.

“This is gonna sound pretty crazy, but I think we could land on the moon in less than two years,” the SpaceX boss told Time. “Certainly with an uncrewed vehicle I believe we could land on the moon in two years. So then maybe within a year or two of that we could be sending crew. I would say four years at the outside.”

When asked whom he meant by “we,” Musk said he wasn’t sure at the moment, explaining, “If it were to take longer to convince NASA and the authorities that we can do it versus just doing it, then we might just do it. It may literally be easier to just land Starship on the moon than try to convince NASA that we can.”

Indicating a degree of frustration at the lack of support from the space agency, Musk said it’s taking much effort to convince “skeptical engineers” at NASA of SpaceX’s ability to deliver a crewed spacecraft to the lunar surface. NASA is in the process of considering a range of options for its planned crewed mission to the moon in 2024 — a year later than Musk’s proposed crewed landing with a SpaceX spacecraft.

For the trip to the moon and possibly beyond, SpaceX is building the reusable Super Heavy and Starship system (formerly known as BFR), a rocket which would be the most powerful ever and capable of carrying up to 100 astronauts at a time on lengthy missions.

Enthusiastic as ever, Musk told Time that he envisions building a “permanently occupied lunar base” for scientific research, while Mars, too, remains very much in his sights.

Asked if he imagines himself one day setting foot on the moon, or even the Red Planet, the billionaire entrepreneur said that while such an experience would be “quite fun,” his grand space-related efforts are in no way part of a personal quest to visit other celestial bodies.

SpaceX still faces a multitude of challenges to achieve its ambition of sending a spacecraft to the moon. On July 16, just four days after the Time interview, a fireball engulfed its prototype Starship rocket during a ground test in Boca Chica, Texas. The precise cause of the incident is still being investigated.

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Trevor Mogg
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