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Elon Musk: I’m ‘highly confident’ SpaceX’s first crewed Mars mission will launch in 2026, maybe as early as 2024

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday said he’s “highly confident” that his commercial space company will launch its first manned mission to Mars in 2026, adding that it could happen as early as 2024 “if we get lucky.”

The billionaire entrepreneur during a webcast interview with Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the German media company Axel Springer SE, expressed this estimation of his. The pair talked with each other about a variety of topics at Axel Springer’s headquarters in Berlin as part of a ceremony honoring Musk, who won this year’s Axel Springer Award.

Watch the full 30-minute interview on YouTube here.

“And then we want to try to send an uncrewed vehicle there in two years,” Musk also told Döpfner. Space.com noted in its detailed Wednesday article after this quote that “the two-year target intervals are dictated by orbital dynamics: Earth and Mars align favorably for interplanetary launches just once every 26 months.”

RELATED: Four astronauts arrive at International Space Station for historic SpaceX-NASA mission

The 165-foot-tall (50 meters) Starship will be the vehicle that will make these voyages to Mars and will launch from Earth on top of a large rocket known as Super Heavy, according to Space.com. Both spacecraft will be completely and quickly reusable—with Musk having said that the latter will return to Earth for vertical touchdowns shortly after liftoff, and the former will be able to venture from Earth’s orbit to Mars and back again many times. Space.com said that Starship will have enough power to “launch itself off both Mars and the moon, which have much weaker gravitational pulls than that of Earth.”

SpaceX has been inching closer to what will eventually be the final version of Starship by testing a series of prototypes. The company’s most recent prototype, called SN8, short for “Serial Number 8,” is currently preparing for a major test flight this week, Musk stated Tuesday last week in a tweet just after a successful SN8 test.

“Good Starship SN8 static fire! Aiming for first 15km / ~50k ft altitude flight next week,” the eccentric billionaire wrote. “Goals are to test 3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip.”

On top of that, this week’s upcoming test will have a target altitude of nine miles (15 kilometers), Space.com noted.

Also during the Tuesday interview, Musk re-emphasized his foundational goal of SpaceX to make humans a multiplanet species and doubled down on his wish to die on the Red Planet, something he has stated before.

“Just not on impact,” Musk joked to Döpfner.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Pope Francis calls for universal ban on ‘so-called surrogate motherhood’

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Pope Francis called for a universal ban on surrogacy, likening the practice as an unborn child “turned into an object of trafficking.”

“I consider despicable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs,” Francis said in a speech to the Holy See on Monday.

The “uterus for rent” process, as Francis has called it, was estimated to bring in $14 billion in the U.S. in 2022, and is projected to grow to a $129 billion market by 2032. National Review reports Individual surrogacies can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $200,000 plus in the U.S. Rising infertility rates, an increase in the number of fertility clinics, and “sedentary lifestyles” contribute to surrogacy’s recent popularity, according to Global Market Insights.

“A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract,” Francis continued. “Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”

Surrogacy is already banned in many European countries. In the United States, commercial surrogacy, or for-profit surrogacy, is legal in some states, and the practice has been used by celebrities who are very public with their decision to use surrogacy.

Altruistic surrogacy, the method by which a woman carries another person’s child for no official compensation, is legal in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, Greece, and Iceland, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The speech was about threats to peace and human dignity. “A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract,” Francis continued. “Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”

Francis also listed Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas war, climate change, and increased weapons production as great threats to peace on Monday.

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