SpaceX Starship Will Be Modified for Human Landings on the Moon

The SpaceX human lander design is a single-stage solution with Starship, their fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The proposal included an in-space propellent transfer demonstration and uncrewed test landing.

The Starship will have an elevator pulley system to take the astronaut to the surface.

The SN4 Starship prototype should fly in May to 150 meters.

The SN5 Starship prototype should fly late in May or in June to 12-mile-high (20 kilometers).

SOURCES – Marcus House, Scott Manley, NASA, SpaceX
Written by Brian Wang,

59 thoughts on “SpaceX Starship Will Be Modified for Human Landings on the Moon”

  1. Right now all those starry eyed asteroid mining plans are eagerly waiting for space to get cheaper thanks to Starship

    I thought they were waiting for falcon.

    What Musk and SpaceX are doing isn’t a repetition of Zubrin’s or old NASA’s plans.

    SpaceX isn’t going to mars unless NASA is paying all mover costs. SpaceX is a launch provider business, that’s Musk’s contribution to helping humans become an interplanetary species. Starship is all about their core business, it will also be available for hire by paying customers to fulfill their solar system colonization dreams.

    It’s a radically new approach

    New optimistic musings != Mars Design Reference Mission

  2. “Mars trips and moon mining are the thing that gets oneal habs built.” That is quite true of lunar ISRU, but totally false as to Mars. Quite a difference in incentive, as I have been pointing out.

  3. Musk is a late comer to the Moon First v Mars Direct question. I love Musk rockets! Am watching LabPadre now. The big question is planets v Space, as per O’Neill. Mars is a planet, so if O’Neill is correct, Mars is too tiny to matter. Moon First v Mars Direct is not an issue if Mars is not a goal, if no planet, not even Earth, is the right place to expand. So I am not against Musk rockets, just the fact that very, very few hear of O’Neill compared to Mars as “space”. Yet the question is conclusive as to what to do next.

  4. PEOPLE wont forget mars. Mars is a destination that exist. Its there waiting, YOU say its time to build a thing from nothing thats just up there.

    The thing your not getting is that those Mars trips and moon mining are the thing that gets oneal habs built. Where do you want to live with your family? A harsh Moon environment or a lush park like oneal hab above it.

    We could built a Mars elevator and hook it up to….a oneal cylinder.

  5. Think about it this way. Musk is doing what NASA originally wanted to do. Build a whole space industry. Look at a SpaceX Starship.

    Most space companies today and most years are talking about building very specific craft to do certain things. Musk and SpaceX are building whats basically the C130 of spacecraft.

    A hopefully dependable workhorse that can carry cargo, ferry people, refuel, etc

    aybe within 20 years you can add Prospecting,
    Repair and maintenanc,

    And dozens of others.

    Thats the hope.

  6. The Starship is 120 meters tall. Assuming you start sliding a third of the way down, 80 meters. Equivalent to 13 meters in Earth gravity.

    Since you can’t get your arms around it, you can’t achieve any pressure to take advantage of friction, so you’re just falling. The equivalent of 13 Earth meters. Wearing a suit that masses as much as you do.

    That doesn’t end well.

    I would suggest at least a series of loops, and a couple of short lanyards attached to the suit, with carabiners, so that in an emergency you could work your way back up without any risk of a fall.

  7. But why even go to an asteroid when you have that cheddar hanging in the sky?
    Moon has most of what we need. Water, iron, aluminum; silicates, carbon and such for making terrain. Only thing lacking is nitrogen which will have to be shipped from Earth w/o oxygen[weight penalty, so no point] or elsewhere.

  8. Since this Starship never comes back to Earth, there doesn’t appear to be a need for a steel wall around the engines. (I.e. after launch from Earth, discard it.)

    And why not design it so heavy cargo goes between the rocket engines and the fuel tanks, again probably with no need for a wall around it? They already run oxygen via pipe through the methane tank, just do both that way. Cargo near the bottom lowers the center of gravity while landing. Cargo might be dropped down internally rather than down the outside of the ship, avoiding potential balance issues during cargo unloading.

    And once you’ve stripped off that much steel wall, you could build in long landing legs that extend just before touchdown, keeping the main engines far from the surface and then lowering the ship to the surface. That might eliminate the need for the new ‘side’ rockets, which have to be a major added complication requiring specialized development and testing just for lunar landing.

  9. And Columbus STILL got completely lost when he set out to sail to India and ended up in the Caribbean.

    No, sneakily renaming them “the West Indies” doesn’t help his case.

  10. everything you need in the way of material resources is already there

    Except biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and tasty livestock.

    So, most of what you need.

  11. I also lean heavily toward Moon First, but I also think that Gateway may be useful in future missions. Plus, it adds redundancy.
    Hopefully it will be built from mostly lunar resources. The first pieces probably not.
    Iron and titanium are already there in large quantity.

  12. Starship, at 9 meters diameter, is more than twice the diameter of Falcon 9, which should help with stability. Many months ago, I saw an article somewhere that attempted to calculate how much of a slope Starship could tolerate in its landing location, and the author concluded it could safely land on some moderately-sloped places, but I don’t remember how much slope was calculated to be safe.

  13. Observation about vertical landing a tall structure:

    The landing surfaces have been hard and usually level uncluttered planes prepared in advance as landing zones.

    The Falcon 9 upon landing is virtually empty of propellants, thus the center of mass is low near the engine cluster.

    The landing leg contact points are a substantial distance from the axis of the Falcon 9 vehicle’s center of mass, which enhances the righting moment of these torque arms.

    Fluids in un-baffled tanks slosh about with movement of the container; which, can decrease a vessel’s stability if the period of resonant movement within a storage tank coincides with gross movement of the overall structure.

  14. “Where do O’Neill cylinders get their air, water, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen from?” Everything but the N is on the Moon, but if cheaper is avail, from that source. Air scoop Earth for N. Moon mass driver far easier than Mars launch. “O’Neill will definitely happen but it is harder than making a dome on Moon/Mars”. Better check out Al Globus on nss dot org. Thinking any particular population, rather than comparing Island 3 with a small dome, Globus ELEO is a sure winner, once even a small mass driver is set up. No radiation shield! Full 1 g only where needed. But then the growth potential leaves planets, even Earth, in the dust.

  15. Market will do ALL of them because market needs all of them. Where do O’Neill cylinders get their air, water, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen from?

    Not from Earth, takes too much delta-V to get such bulk goods off. You can send bulk Hydrogen and Nitrogen to the Moon from Mars as ammonia ice with less work than sending it from Earth.

    O’Neill will definitely happen but it is harder than making a dome on Moon/Mars and having thought this through a bit* Mars and Moon come before big O’Neill and large scale manned asteroid mining.

    *Working out the backstory for a story that i’ll never get to writing. Earth-Moon-Mars triangle trade is interesting.

  16. “It’s not a rational philosophy, it’s more of a spinal reflex at this point.”

    It is learned timidity.

  17. The terrible truth is that Mars does nothing to help Earth, not that it could be a lifeboat.
    Self sufficiency is a matter of how big the lifeboat is. Or how many there are. Again, you state that things are easier on Mars than in Space, but then say things that are difficult, inconvenience and distance, foster self reliance. That may be true, but for a smaller number, as it is harder to do. If independence is an important factor, people in Space can choose it far easier than those on Mars. “you have to import every bit of mass you need” or reuse what you have already. Think of the mass driver or asteroid catcher as the mine truck on Earth. It may seem like an expensive mine truck, but once it delivers, you are working in Space! Not on a planet, which we all know by now is really hard.

  18. Admitting the terrible truth? Musk has been upfront about his reason for wanting a Mars colony from the very beginning.

    A Mars colony has the potential to be self-sufficient faster than any other approach, because the infrastructure requirements for life on Mars are relatively low, (Right day length, plausibly sufficient gravity, temperatures aren’t absurd.) and everything you need in the way of material resources is already there.

    And the very inconvenience of getting there and back encourages self-sufficiency; A colony on the Moon or Earth orbit is just too close, the tendency will be to skimp on self-sufficiency because dependence will be more economical.

    Finally, distance is protection. If you’ve got a colony in Earth orbit or on the Moon, it stands a good chance of being effected by anything capable of taking down Earth. A pandemic, (Travel to Mars automatically supplies a quarantine period!) war, a large asteroid strike. Mars is far enough away from Earth to have few common failure modes.

    I think O’Neill colonies are a great idea, but we can reach self-sufficiency on Mars quicker, and O’Neill colonies can never themselves be self-sufficient, they will always be dependent on a wide network of commerce, because *there’s nothing there*, you have to import every bit of mass you need.

  19. Thinking matches name! I see some of the choices as true binary, and some as *meta* to others. O’Neill insight is both binary and meta. Earth (thus all planets) is OR is not *right place* to expand. “you can (and will) do both.” implies that O’Neill is inconclusive. But the market can now decide, as all plans start at Moon. I do question: “LEO: Highest throughput, no ISRU”. Seems like LEO can be part of cislunar ISRU system, esp if atmos used for brake. Thruput on Moon and Mars limited by g.

  20. “And me thinks his plans will help O’Neill settlements come along just fine.” His rockets are an astounding leap. I can only think of SLS mercy killing as something not (yet) going the right way, overall. ISRU is needed even on Mars, so lunar/NEO/TCO/asteroidal ISRU will certainly help ELEO compete w/ Mars for population. How many Starship landings to set up a lunar mass driver?

  21. “You can disagree, but that won’t do any change to his plans. His dime, his choice.” I am attempting to change his plans. You may assume I will fail, but who knows?
    “Having people on Mars settlements is something he believes he himself can do in a decade or so” And he could do it in Space, too, easier and with far more growth potential, a bigger lifeboat by far.
    “Musk thinks we can face extinction before we can build O’Neill habitats, which will take several decades.” But easier and bigger than Mars. Planets, not even Earth, are NOT the right place to expand. Many do not see this, by the way.

  22. Musk thinks we can face extinction before we can build O’Neill habitats, which will take several decades. Besides we have no real incentive to make them, which can delay any projects even more (50 years or more).

    Having people on Mars settlements is something he believes he himself can do in a decade or so, and then promote them with his own coin to ensure they become autonomous ASAP.

    For that reason, having a backup planet is his priority.

    You can disagree, but that won’t do any change to his plans. His dime, his choice.

    And me thinks his plans will help O’Neill settlements come along just fine.

  23. There is a big difference with Blue Moon, as it is an unmanned craft with a manned module added, which is not even BM’s. So here, NASA is a customer, but not the design driver. All of the manned plans are pre ISRU, so have to find sponsors. ISRU -> bucks!

  24. It ought to have a ladder as part of the rocket’s design, additionally to other options (like a rope ladder).

    Probably it’s just not depicted, but it makes no sense to leave the crew without options because of a mechanical failure.

  25. I may be dreaming, but I thought the orig plan for what is now lunar gateway was to assemble Mars craft. Landing on Moon was thrown in later. Anyway, I already am aware that NASA is a gov program. Power addiction rears its ugly head.

  26. Thank you for admitting the terrible truth!
    Now, throw in the fact that O’Neill Space, with many, many productive therefore independent lifeboats, is a far better solution to lifeboat concerns, and case closed! More lifeboats, which start economically by helping solve (Space Solar, etc) some of the big reasons we need lifeboats, is the clear better plan than Mars.

  27. People keep treating Moon/Mars or Mars/O’Neill as binary choices, you can (and will) do both.

    Mars has lots of H,N,C. Asteroids- not so much. Moon has lots of Ti, Mars not so much.

    What we do and when we do it is constrained by how much resource throughput you can get to a location, and the technical state of the art with ISRU.

    LEO: Highest throughput, no ISRU
    Moon: High throughput, some ISRU
    Mars: Low throughput, good ISRU
    Asteroid mining: Very low throughput, situational ISRU

    Hard to go straight to asteroid mining when it takes years to get to an asteroid.

  28. An actual useful lunar gateway would be the top floor of a space elevator. We can make them now with current materials and the level of effort to get bulk goods down to the surface would be greatly reduced.

  29. There is old video of prototype Apollo landers and an astronaut trying to climb a rope ladder up to a tall prototype. It is laborious. I think the video is on the moon machines episode about the lunar lander.

    Problem isn’t so much the weight of the spacesuit as suit + astronaut comes in under the astronaut’s weight on Earth. The problem is the immobility of the spacesuit. You don’t have full range of motion, also you don’t have good visibility, also you can’t feel things through the suit that aren’t rigid.

    Brett is right, there should be fixed rungs, just in case, otherwise you have a single point of failure.

  30. Quite possibly. With the additional complication that Boeing has so screwed up that they’re out of the race now; Even NASA won’t throw them any bones until they demonstrate that they’ve fixed their internal problems.

  31. So you see no possibly relevant analogy between the slow creep of the Portuguese along the coast of Africa & the creep of space advances post Apollo.

  32. In my opinion perhaps Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Blue Origin,.. can’t compete with SpaceX and they figured up they could get some money with lunar gateway and landers and so on,…
    So they lobbied and pitched that concept to the public.
    This is just my personal opinion.

  33. No, Lunar gateway is consistent with Nasa’s “incrementalism uber alles” philosophy. It’s not a rational philosophy, it’s more of a spinal reflex at this point.

    If they see any place in a plan where they can fit in an intermediate step, even if it makes no sense, they do it. They’re the sort of agency that thinks it makes sense to send people all the way to Mars, with a trip time of many months each way, and only spend a week or two actually ON Mars.

    The Lunar Gateway is just a more permanent version of the Apollo command module.

  34. “Nothing about Mars helps Earth.”

    Mars isn’t intended to help Earth. Mars, explicitly, is intended as a lifeboat colony in case Earth goes down hard.

    From that perspective, you don’t WANT Mars to end up with extensive commerce with Earth. You want it to achieve practical independence as soon as possible.

  35. The ships & navigation knowledge were available for C. Columbus to do that because the Portuguese had spent the last several decades creeping along the coast of Africa & figuring out wind & current patterns.
    Also no C. Columbus would just delay discovery of the Americas by a decade or 2 at most & change which parts of the Americas got colonized by which European power.

  36. If the Moon was a shirtsleeve environment, sure. When you’re wearing a space suit that quite possibly weighs as much as you do, and limits your mobility? I don’t think that would be a smart choice. You really don’t want to get halfway up and have your grip slip because of those clunky gloves.

  37. I agree! Only prob with ISS is the high inclination, but that is a big advantage for tourists, so it will grow if just for that. A higher, bigger ELEO will follow, with spin g avail, and better access to Moon. So much more exciting than Mars!

  38. ISRU, which includes lunar mining, is far better for LEO than Earth launch. And we already occupy LEO, so just grab some wet *dirt* off the Moon and start experimenting already!

  39. We already have ISS with all experience from it. We could practice on Iss, no need to build seperate station for that at least in my opinion. If SpaceX lunar version won’t have heat shield it could dock, be refulled on Iss.

    Another problem with lunar gateway as I see it, is cost. They would spend more money than necessary, it would end being pork project instead small docking, emergency, refulling depot. And it would take too long.

  40. Lunar gateway is only there to support/practice Mars. If we need a “gateway” to the Moon, it would be in LEO, not a separate project.

  41. A huge advantage of cislunar is that the machines can be telebots, controlled from yur home office or bedroom. “behind the scenes” is that we are talking unmanned things first, ISRU now, starting real growth. People are not the initial project, other than tourists and workers. Machines not as popularly covered, but the key concept of making money in Space depends heavily on these machines. And you make money *in* Space by helping Earth, not just living there, at first. Particularly almost diabolically true of living on Mars.

  42. Even if you want most of your habitat in O’Neills, lunar mining helps a lot for building them, once you’re ready to go big and out past LEO.

    And if you do have lunar mining you’re probably going to have a least enough of a habitat there for maintenance crew and support staff. Then you’ll have some tourism because hey, Moon!

  43. Please compare the various plans, for the same number of people! O’Neill Space will ALWAYS be easier and better! The fact that that the 3rd generation of 70’s plans does not look like a good place to start does not mean it is the only thing O’Neill proposed. Nothing about Mars helps Earth. Everything O’Neill does, starting with Space Solar. ISRU is the most important O’Neill insight, followed by the advantage of 0 g unless otherwise desired. Then energy. On and on. Globus closes any doubt, with ELEO proposals for small size, no radiation shield. Way far easier and more useful than Mars. But really, full population of Mars does not solve Earth population. Only the room for trillions in O’Neill Space could. Mars is not the “right place” if Earth is not!

  44. Lunar gateway is a silly concept. It would complicate everything with too much extra steps and moon is not far away from Earth. It is just for pork, we already have ISS.

    Fuel depots, landers, seperate ships complicate things.
    That is what Musk has learned to avoid. The best thing is as little as intermediate steps as possible and use single well made starship for that.

    I don’t like having seperate car navigation device, seperate camera, seperate phone. Too much hassle. One device with all of that for most what I need, more practical, to combine it into 1 device if you can.

  45. Nice elevator, but I’d personally want at least one ladder, too. The Otis repair guy is a long ways away.

    One interesting point here is that the other two finalists are obviously depending on the lunar gateway, while use of it is, for SpaceX, obviously just tacked onto a mission plan that doesn’t actually require it.

    So SpaceX will be able to complete the mission on schedule when the Lunar Gateway doesn’t materialize.

  46. We are on the 5th or so orbital hab, yet to be on Moon for long, let alone Mars. I am certain that Musk does NOT *know* that planets, not even Earth, are NOT the place to grow! Or he would forget Mars.

  47. O’Neill’s approach will gradually come into play, thanks to asteroid mining, additive manufacturing and AI.

    In parallel with the crewed space projects and plans, a lot of things will happen behind the scenes supported by machines that can do more and more of the extraction, processing and manufacturing of stuff in a fully automatic or semi-automatic way, allowing us to get growing amounts of resources from space. The first ones will probably be hydrogen, oxygen and water, extracted in fully manual way, later much more varied materials and finally, machinery.

    And once micro-gravity resources and products start flowing, assembling big space stations becomes a much more viable proposition.

  48. Musk knows.

    He simply isn’t looking for a project he won’t see done himself.

    Having people on another planet in a decade or so and profiting from existing planet chauvinism is the way to make the mass of humanity move into space ASAP.

    Others will pay for using SpaceX rockets and the new capabilities they bring, and they can start building stuff that goes in O’Neill’s direction. Right now all those starry eyed asteroid mining plans are eagerly waiting for space to get cheaper thanks to Starship.

    What Musk and SpaceX are doing isn’t a repetition of Zubrin’s or old NASA’s plans. It’s a radically new approach.

  49. I see it’s painted white. Makes sense, given this one is probably not made to return to Earth and has no need for a heat shield. Probably it’s meant to remain on the Moon and in orbit, possibly being capable of refueling and reuse.

    Alas, no heat shield means no aerobraking and thus, no Earth return, unless they followed a very complicated trajectory with very gentle aerobraking or if it has a lot of fuel for returning (doubtful).

    Also, there are solar panels at the top. This allows ground power generation with a very simple deployment (that is, none).

    I noticed they changed the design to have some sideways thrusters near the top.

    Those look handy to reduce the problem of debris ejection while using the powerful Raptors on the loose lunar gravel and dust. I imagine the Raptors are still used to approach to the surface, but they are turned off at certain height and then the side thrusters take over the task of landing the spaceship without making a new crater.

    All in all, seems like made for the job.

  50. SpaceX landing system current iteration lands the falcon 1st stage soft enough back on earth 8:10 I think, so besides the dust and the crater I don’t know how safe landing their tall one manned on the moon will be.

  51. O`Neill space colonies do have many advantages, But a large space colony will require robust and mature space based manufacturing which will probably take 50 to 100 years to develop. Elon Musk may get the 1st colonists to Mars in the next decade and in a century their could be several cities on Mars with maybe a million or more martians. I hope that in time both visions come true.

  52. What if Musk starts thinking about the possibilities of O’Neill Space? He would just forget about Mars, as I did in 1977, and fight the ignorance of planetarianism.


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