SpaceX's Starship is going to the Moon, and a new fan render gives a glimpse of how it might look.
On Friday, Sweden-based designer Erik Corshammar shared a rendering via Twitter of SpaceX's ambitious project to land on the Moon. The fascinating design shows tiny astronauts eclipsed by the giant Starship, expected to measure 30 feet in diameter by 160 feet tall. It offers an idea of how the rocket that will send humans back to the Moon with the NASA Artemis mission will look.
SUBSCRIBE TO MUSK READS+, A PREMIUM NEWSLETTER THAT COVERS THE WORLDS OF ELON MUSK, SPACEX, TESLA, AND EVERYTHING BETWEEN.
The render attracted the attention of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. His response on Twitter also offered clues to the final Starship design — and a key missing element from Corshammer's render: "It will have landing legs."
The image is another example of how SpaceX's fan community has rallied around the Starship. The craft will be a fully-reusable ship able to travel to Mars, refuel, and fly home or venture out further. A test launch later this month will send a prototype to 15 kilometers altitude. If all goes to plan, SpaceX wants to send the first humans to Mars on the final Starship by the mid-2020s.
Musk may have pointed out an oversight in Corshammer's work, but he tells Inverse he's "just happy" with how much Musk engages with fan work.
"It is actually quite a fun story why Elon replied as he did." Corshammer says.
"I have been working on a larger project with the YouTuber [smallstars] on making a new Full Flight Animation for the Lunar version of Starship," he says. "A lot of stuff in our file is still a work in progress, and not properly set up, so extending the legs for this render would be a bit more difficult than usual, so I let it slip."
"I have since learnt that Elon is quite quick on his feet, and always eager to point out places for improvement," Corshammar says.
"I’m just happy that he genuinely cares and is so engaged in what we do, it’s a real morale booster."
Corshammar shared with Inverse a second rendering, which shows the Starship emblazoned with NASA's logo:
It's not the first time Musk has responded to one of Corshammer's renderings. In October, Musk praised a rendering of the Super Heavy booster as "great."
SpaceX is one of three firms developing a human lander for the Artemis mission. The other two are led by Jeff Bezos-owned firm Blue Origin and technology firm Dynetics. The contracts are worth $967 million in total. The three started work on their projects in April 2020 and will finish up in February 2021. After that, NASA will choose up to two designs early next year for the 2024 mission.
A prototype model of the Starship has been spotted at SpaceX's Texas facility with the NASA logo. It may not be long before the company unveils a real-life model of its plans to bring humans back to the Moon.
The Inverse analysis — Legs are actually a controversial aspect of the Starship. On Sunday, Musk described them as "one of the hardest problems." If they're mounted externally they need shielding, which adds mass. Other landing solutions also add mass, but Musk says "we need better legs," not other options.
As the internal debate for the best solution continues, fan renders show how these legs could look. Helsinki-based 3D artist Kimi Talvitie's April 2020 rendering showed some impressive spider-like legs, which Musk praised as "nice work."
Corshammer isn't the only fan to notice Musk's regular engagement with the community. The SpaceX CEO's feedback seems to encourage them to produce more concept renders. With such an enthusiastic community backing the project, it's easy to see why anticipation for Starship is bubbling up.