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Making a Future Among the Stars

Elon Musk has helped to advance self-driving electric cars and an implantable brain-machine interface, but when he greeted the crowd in Boca Chica, he said, gesturing at Starship, “This is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.”Photograph by SpaceX

n Boca Chica, Texas, presenting SpaceX’s latest prototype vehicle, Starship, Elon Musk remembered how, 11 years ago, he got mad at his parachute supplier. His young rocket company seemed doomed: The Falcon 1 rocket had to reach orbit or else SpaceX, out of money and investors, would go under. It, is coming in from space at about Mach 10 to 12. “It hits the atmosphere like it’s a concrete wall—and boom.” He chuckled and went on, “You actually have to orient the rocket carefully, have aerodynamic surfaces, have an entry burn to slow it down, then you’ve got to guide it through the atmosphere and do a propulsive landing. This took us many, many attempts.” 

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