Mars, a place we'd surely all rather be at this point, is indeed on the horizon.
On Tuesday night, SpaceX celebrated a successful launch of its methane-powered Starship SN5 prototype, which can be seen in the remarkable footage below taking to the skies of Boca Chica, Texas for a short test flight or "hop."
The prototype craft, perCBS News' resident space program enthusiast Bill Harwood, is a full-scale version of a Starship stage's propellant tank boasting a single Raptor engine. In other words, this is a pared-down version of the impending final product. As has been widely discussed amid the company's years-long path toward making Mars a viable destination, the actual Starship stage will be approximately 160 feet in length and will run on the strength of six Raptor engines.
The final feat of engineering—which consists of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket, collectively called Starship—will employ the use of a heat shield that's crafted to withstand "multiple entires" into the Mars atmosphere, though SpaceX has acknowledged that "some ablation" of the shield should be expected.
Addressing the Starship prototype's success on Tuesday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said "Mars is looking real." Asked what's next for Starship, Musk confirmed that he and the team will conduct several more "short hops" in an effort to "smooth out" the overall launch process.
2020 has proven to be a pivotal year for SpaceX, with this week also marking the completion of the historic SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight: