If all goes to plan, next month SpaceX will launch the largest rocket in human history. Towering nearly 400 feet tall, the rocket – Starship – is designed to take NASA astronauts to the moon. And SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, has bigger ambitions: he wants to use it to settle humans on Mars.
Much has already been made of Starship’s human spaceflight capabilities. But the rocket could also revolutionize what we know about our neighboring planets and moons. “Starship would totally change the way that we can do solar system exploration,” says Ali Bramson, a planetary scientist from Purdue University. “Planetary science will just explode.”
If it lives up to its billing, scientists are already talking about sending missions to Neptune and its largest moon in the outer solar system, bringing back huge quantities of space rock from Earth’s moon and Mars, and even developing innovative ways to protect Earth from incoming asteroids.
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