Elon Musk says Starship to put Americans on MARS is now 'top priority' after historic 'all USA' rocket launch

TECH billionaire Elon Musk has revealed that his rocket firm SpaceX will now treat its innovative spacecraft Starship as its "top priority".

In an email to SpaceX staff, the 48-year-old said he wished to dramatically accelerate progress on the vehicle, which will one day take people to Mars.

The California company's rocket aims to be fully reusable and launch up to 100 people at a time on missions to the Moon and beyond.

"We need to accelerate Starship progress," Musk said in the email sent Saturday and later seen by CNBC.

The comments come days after SpaceX launched its first manned mission to orbit as part of a lucrative partnership with Nasa.

US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley blasted to the International Space Station from a launchpad in Florida aboard a SpaceX Dragon craft.

Behnken and Hurley will return aboard the spacecraft, currently still docked to the ISS, in the coming months.

SpaceX is now pushing forward with its next rocket, Starship, which thus far has yet to perform a test flight to space.

"Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship," Musk wrote in the email.

The South African urged staff to "dramatically and immediately" speed up progress on the super-heavy rocket.

SpaceX engineers have been working on Starship for years.

The machine is still in its early stages, but promises to be the world's most powerful rocket if SpaceX ever gets it off the ground.

Standing 290 feet (120 metres) tall and boasting three of SpaceX's huge "Raptor" engines, the rocket will hit speeds of 15,000mph (25,000kph).

Musk, who is also boss of electric car firm Tesla, eventually wants to use the spacecraft to help build a colony on Mars.

The mogul, who recently had a baby with kooky Canadian pop artist Grimes, wants to put a million people on the Red Planet by 2050.

In a series of tweets earlier this year, Musk outlined how his Starlink plans would open up space travel to anyone, regardless of their income.

"Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money," he wrote.

Musk's plan involves building a 1,000-strong fleet of Starship vehicles, which comprise a huge rocket topped by a bullet-shaped spacecraft.

What is SpaceX?

Here's what you need to know…

SpaceX is a cash-flushed rocket company that wants to take man to Mars.

It was set up by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in 2002 and is based in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX's first aim was to build rockets that could autonomously land back on Earth and be re-used.

Musk hoped the technology would make flying and operating space flights far cheaper.

SpaceX currently uses its reusable rockets to fly cargo to the International Space Station for Nasa.

It also carries satellites and other space tech into orbit for various international governments and companies.

The company will take astronauts up to the ISS for the first time in 2020.

Other future missions involve carrying tourists and astronauts to the Moon.

Musk has repeatedly said he believes humanity must colonise Mars to save itself from extinction.

He plans to get a SpaceX rocket to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

He recently hired more than 250 extra SpaceX employees in two days to help the company reach this lofty goal.

According to Musk, SpaceX aims to build 1,000 Starships at a facility in South Texas over a 10-year period.

That's 100 rockets per year – a pretty tall feat considering the firm hasn't built a single functioning Starship yet.

Eventually, the Tesla boss added, the goal would be to launch 1,000 Starship flights to Mars every year – an average of three per day.

Each trip would see 100 passengers make their way to the Red Planet to become citizens of a Mars megacity.

Musk was a little vague on what, exactly, colonists would do once they got there. "There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!" he tweeted.

SpaceX says Starship's first (unmanned) flight will take place sometime this year.

The company, based in Hawthorne, California, is currently racing through various safety and engine tests to get the rocket ready.

Based on Musk's projections, it would take a fleet of 1,000 Starships around nine years to carry a million people to Mars.

That's assuming the company really does manage to send up 300 people a day, of course.

When you add the ten years required to build the fleet, the scheme needs to begin within the next decade to have any chance of meeting Musk's 2050 target.

He didn't specify what each rocket would need to carry, but a trunk-full of food, water, fuel and life support systems is a given.

In other news, Musk last week launched another 60 SpaceX "internet satellites" despite fears the firm is cluttering Earth's orbit.

Nasa has revealed the design of a moon lander that could be taking astronauts back to the lunar surface by 2024.

The space agency also recently released an unusual image of the 'death explosion' of a massive star that looks just like a bat.

Do you Elon Musk will pull off his bonkers plot? Let us know in the comments!

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