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Foreign Correspondent: Destination Mars Thurs 30 Sep on ABC TV

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This week’s Foreign Correspondent is a report on Elon Musk’s Destination Mars project.

In the tiny Texan hamlet of Boca Chica, a huge rocket is being built and tested. It’s Elon Musk’s Starship, a 70-metre-high spacecraft whose mission is to transport humans to the moon and beyond, to Mars.

Musk and his company SpaceX are at the forefront of what’s being called ‘New Space’, the rush to commercialise the space sector.

His ambition is extraordinary; he wants to colonise the Red Planet.

“It’s helpful to have the objective of a self-sustaining city on Mars. This has to be the objective”, says Musk.

In his quest to perfect the Starship, Musk has been blowing up prototypes.

“He doesn’t really care if it’s messy, he doesn’t really care if it appears to be chaotic, he’s trying to go forward into the future as fast as possible”, says space writer Eric Berger.

But the mighty rocket has its critics, including a former head of NASA, Charlie Bolden.

“The difficulty for me as a huge fan of SpaceX, but a huge sceptic about Starship is the fact that it’s so big, it’s so massive”, says Bolden. “If Neil Armstrong were alive today to talk to them, he would probably say, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

In a cracking season finale, US correspondent Sarah Ferguson heads to Texas to see Musk’s space base up close. She joins a band of devotees in Boca Chica, from Gene the local surfer to MaryLiz and Ryan who’ve dedicated their lives to documenting the billionaire’s space odyssey.

She speaks to members of the ‘space establishment’ – former and current NASA executives who’ve decided to accept and work with the great disruptor. NASA recently awarded Musk a multi-billion-dollar contract to build its next moon lander.

“I think actually this will be a perfect example of ‘new space’ and ‘old space’ meeting together in a great new mission”, says Kathy Lueders, head of the NASA mission to send humans back to the moon.

Sarah travels to Florida’s space coast to witness the launch of SpaceX’s Inspiration 4, the first time civilians have flown into orbit.

Musk is a polarising figure. But he’s changed forever how humans view space.

Foreign Correspondent: Destination Mars airs Thursday 30 September at 8.00pm on ABC TV.