NASA chief hails SpaceX's 1st Starship launch despite explosion

NASA leadership had a lot to say after today's explosive first test flight of SpaceX's Starship.

NASA has tapped Starship for its upcoming Artemis 3 mission, which will put astronauts back on the moon no earlier than 2025. Following that, Starship will also ferry human crews to the lunar surface and back for Artemis 4 and perhaps also Artemis 5, according to NASA's current plans.

With so much banking on the successful development of the massive stainless steel vehicle, NASA leaders took the opportunity to hail today's flight test as an important step forward in the agency's moon plans.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised the launch, congratulating SpaceX and writing on Twitter that "Every great achievement throughout history has demanded some level of calculated risk, because with great risk comes great reward. Looking forward to all that SpaceX learns, to the next flight test — and beyond."

Related: SpaceX's 1st Starship launches on epic test flight, explodes in 'rapid unscheduled disassembly'

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NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Jim Free likewise shared his enthusiasm on Twitter, writing that Starship will help move the agency toward a crewed landing on the moon as part of the Artemis program

"Looking forward to learning from the data SpaceX captured as they continue to develop the Starship human landing system and prepare for their next flight test," Free wrote.

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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) likewise praised today's launch. AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher issued a statement congratulating SpaceX on the flight and for the company's continued work to advance spaceflight. 

"This flight is an important milestone, and much will be learned from the engineering data. With Starship, SpaceX is taking bold steps that are helping us accelerate the future of humans living and working off our planet. Flight tests and taking risks will lead to this future," Dumbacher wrote in the statement. 

"We are excited to see commercial space launch companies pushing the industry forward toward the moon and Mars," Dumbacher continued. "Pushing boundaries leads to success. AIAA recognizes the countless industry professionals who have helped design, build, and test this new system. We applaud AIAA Corporate Member SpaceX for shaping the future of aerospace."

SpaceX's Starship falls to Earth after exploding on its first test flight on April 20, 2023. (Image credit: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite today's test flight ending in an explosive "rapid unscheduled disassembly," as SpaceX puts it, the company has hailed the launch as a success. The fact that Starship even cleared its launch tower and then went on to survive Max-Q, the point at which a vehicle is subjected to the highest level of stresses during a flight, marks an important milestone in the development of the revolutionary vehicle that SpaceX says will help make humankind spread throughout the solar system.

"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," the company wrote on Twitter following the launch.

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Brett Tingley
Managing Editor, Space.com

Brett is curious about emerging aerospace technologies, alternative launch concepts, military space developments and uncrewed aircraft systems. Brett's work has appeared on Scientific American, The War Zone, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett enjoys skywatching throughout the dark skies of the Appalachian mountains.