June 16, 2024

Starship, a fully reusable megarocket developed by SpaceX, has completed just four live tests and broken the Earth’s atmosphere. But founder Elon Musk is shooting far above that — past the Moon, past Mars, and onto Uranus.

During a Sunday night livestream — where Musk showed off Starlink’s internet services, X’s live-streaming capabilities, and his decent Diablo IV skills — Musk made a number of proclamations about his vision for interstellar advancement. Chief among them was reaffirming that SpaceX will attempt to land on Mars by 2027.

“I think we’ll launch the first Starship to Mars in less than three years. And things will really go exponential from there,” he said.

Musk added that “maybe three” ships will go on the first mission to Mars. Assuming landing isn’t problematic, SpaceX will attempt to send “20 or 30″ ships a few years later and 100 ships on the third attempt, eventually ramping up to “1,000 ships going to Mars every rendezvous.”

That’s ambitious, but bold proclamations are nothing new for Musk. In October, he said it would “sort of feasible” for an uncrewed test landing on Mars within the next four years. Still, Musk has had to push back his Mars ambitions in the past, having first predicted a manned flight to the red planet in 2024. That doesn’t appear particularly close to happening.

On Sunday, Musk also talked about his new goal — reaching the seventh planet in the solar system.

“We definitely want our rocket to reach Uranus. It’s a stretch goal to reach Uranus,” Musk said during the livestream, later adding in a post that, “My dream is to reach Uranus.”

On one hand, that’s a very ambitious goal that — should it be achieved — would be a major milestone in human history. On the other, it’s entirely likely to be a juvenile joke, something Musk has never steered clear from. His “4/20” joke involving Tesla eventually cost him and Tesla $20 million in fines apiece and resulted in him being forced to step down as Tesla’s chairman. The company also famously makes Models S, E, X, and Y electric cars.

SpaceX has so far conducted just a handful of unmanned tests of Starship, the most recent of which was last week. Musk on Sunday said he expects a fifth launch in “about a month,” pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Previous attempts required at least three months of inquiry from regulators and adjustments from engineers.

Among the improvements to Starship will be the replacement of its heat shield with new tile “about twice as strong” as used in its fourth test.

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