SpaceX Starship Flies Higher and Farther Before Failed Landing

Mar 15, 2024

Thought Question: Describe a time when you learned something important as a result of a failure or mistake.

SpaceX and NASA are celebrating the most successful failure to date of the unmanned Starship rocket . It launched Thursday more or less smoothly. It flew higher and farther than ever. Then, it was lost somewhere over the Indian Ocean.

"The team has made the call that the ship has been lost, so no splashdown today," SpaceX communication manager Dan Huot said during a livestream of the launch. "But again, just it's (stunning) to see how much further we got this time around."  

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has commonly treated such failures of his rockets as successes because of the lessons learned from them. That includes the two test flights in 2023. Each exploded minutes after launching. This time NASA is also praising the Thursday Starship flight because it achieved most of its goals, lasting 49 minutes out of a planned hour-long flight. 

The space agency wants to send astronauts to the moon in 2026, and later, Mars, on Starship rockets.

Musk said the main goal for this test flight was to achieve a speed faster than 17,500 mph, enough to attain orbit. It did that. But the rocket did not achieve orbit. And it wasn't planned to do so. The rocket also achieved successful booster separation mid-flight. Yet the booster failed to make a planned controlled landing and “didn’t light all the engines that we expected,” Huot said.  

The boosters used in the 2023 test flights exploded. One was intentional because it failed to separate.  

“Congrats to SpaceX on a successful test flight! Starship has soared into the heavens,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson posted on X (formerly Twitter). “Together, we are making great strides through Artemis to return humanity to the Moon — then look onward to Mars.”  

Image of Starship courtesy @elonmusk on X.

Which of the following words could best replace “attain” in the fifth paragraph without changing the meaning of the passage? (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. goal
b. failed
c. achieve
d. successful
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