SpaceX launches, lands Starship in 1st successful flight

<p>CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. &mdash; SpaceX launched and successfully landed its futuristic Starship on Wednesday, finally nailing a test flight of the rocketship that Elon Musk intends to use to land astronauts on the moon and send people to Mars.</p>
<p>The previous four tests flights ended in fiery explosions before, during or soon after touchdown at the southeastern tip of Texas, near Brownsville.</p>
<p>This latest upgraded version of SpaceX’s full-scale, stainless steel, bullet-shaped rocketship soared more than 6 miles (10 kilometers) over the Gulf of Mexico before flipping and descending horizontally, and then going vertical again just in time for touchdown. </p>
<p>“Starbase Flight Control has confirmed, as you can see on the live video, we are down. The Starship has landed!” announced launch commentator John Insprucker.</p>
<p>A fire at the base of the 160-foot (50-meter) rocket quickly was extinguished, and the rocket remained standing after the six-minute flight. Musk tweeted the landing was “nominal” — by the book, in other words.</p>
<p>Success came on the 60th anniversary of the flight of first American in space, Alan Shepard. And it capped a stunning two weeks of achievements for SpaceX: the launch of four more astronauts to the space station for NASA, the nation’s first nighttime crew splashdown since the Apollo moonshots, and a pair of launches for its mini internet satellites.</p>
<p>Less than a month ago, NASA chose SpaceX’s Starship to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface in the next few years. The $3 billion contract was halted last week, however, after the losing companies — Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics — protested the selection.</p>
<p>Musk said last month that the NASA money will help development of Starship, which is meant to eventually launch atop a Super Heavy booster. He said it’s been a “pretty expensive” project so far and mostly funded internally. The first high-altitude test was in December.</p>
<p>“As you can tell, if you’ve been watching the videos, we’ve blown up a few of them. So excitement guaranteed, one way or another,” Musk told reporters after the private company’s second crew flight on April 23.</p>
<p>Long after Wednesday’s touchdown, Starship was still standing tall.</p>
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