When he's not quietly rolling back protections for trans people under Twitter's Hateful Conduct Policy or trying to convince us that smelling like burnt hair is a good thing, it's easy to forget that Elon Musk is still on a mission to send people to Mars. But if SpaceX's latest test launch is any indication as to how things are going, that dream may still be quite a ways away.
Heralded as one of the largest and most powerful rockets to ever be built, the nearly 400-foot tall Starship blasted off from the SpaceX's Boca Chica, Texas facility Thursday morning on what was expected to be an hour-and-a-half test flight only to explode shortly after lift off. Starship only made it about four minutes into its planned ascent before the spacecraft began to break up over the Gulf of Mexico in a fiery ball of debris.
And while historically the space race is no stranger to seeing its fair share of failures, SpaceX curiously went out of their way to call what happened to Starship an explosion but rather described the rocket's fate as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”
Fortunately there was no crew was on board the rocket during the ill-fated test flight. The launch was still seen as a promising milestone in Musk's quest to bring mankind to Mars. Starship's launch was originally scheduled to launch on Monday but was postponed shortly before takeoff after a frozen pressurization valve was discovered in the rocket's booster. An official reason for the explosion has yet to be released but Musk, SpaceX, officials within the astronautics community and Grimes seemed optimistic that despite blowing up shortly after takeoff, the results were still promising.
“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary,” SpaceX said in a statement.
\u201cStarship \ud83d\ude80\ud83e\ude90\ud83d\udc97 will take us to other worlds \ud83d\udc9c\u201d— \ud835\udd0a\ud835\udd2f\ud835\udd26\ud835\udd2a\ud835\udd22\ud835\udd30 (@\ud835\udd0a\ud835\udd2f\ud835\udd26\ud835\udd2a\ud835\udd22\ud835\udd30) 1682010304
\u201cHuge congratulations to the whole SpaceX team. Watching from the sidelines all these years, it's very wild to see what you all have accomplished \ud83d\ude80\ud83d\ude80 much sweat and blood! \ud83d\ude80\u201d— \ud835\udd0a\ud835\udd2f\ud835\udd26\ud835\udd2a\ud835\udd22\ud835\udd30 (@\ud835\udd0a\ud835\udd2f\ud835\udd26\ud835\udd2a\ud835\udd22\ud835\udd30) 1682011196
Former NASA official Laura Forczyk remarked in an interview with Financial Times, that the launch could still be seen as "a partial success" and "not a large setback" for SpaceX, pointing out that the rocket was able to make it off the ground should be considered “quite the accomplishment for a new rocket, particularly one as complex as Starship.” Musk similarly echoed these sentiments in his own tweets, saying that they "learned a lot for next test launch in a few months.”
Naturally, the rocket's catastrophic failure became perfect meme fodder with many latching onto the spectacular explosion as the perfect metaphor for Musk's various follies, including his mismanagement of Twitter. From cracks about blue checkmarks to fixating on SpaceX's use of "rapidly unscheduled disassembly" as corporate shorthand for "it blew up," the internet naturally had a field day with it nonetheless.
\u201cSo what if he moved a bunch of SpaceX engineers over to Twitter to figure out how to remove blue checkmarks? What\u2019s the worst thing that could go\u2014\u201d— Frank Lesser (@Frank Lesser) 1682007307
\u201cSpaceX announces that it will address today\u2019s rapid unscheduled disassembly by firing its verified engineers and replacing them with members of the public who will pay Elon $8/month to be called \u201cEngineers\u201d\u201d— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@Mrs. Betty Bowers) 1682004450
Photo via Getty/Red Huber