New York (CNN Business) – A giant experimental rocket built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully soared eight miles above the company’s testing facilities in South Texas on Wednesday and came back down as planned, before crashing into the ground in an enormous plume of flames and smoke.
The hulking rocket didn’t have anyone onboard. It was an early developmental model of Starship, a 160-foot-tall spaceship proposed by Musk that he hopes will be used for hauling massive satellites into Earth’s orbit, shuttling people between cities at breakneck speeds and — eventually — establishing a human settlement on Mars.
The test flight marked the highest test flight yet of the technology Musk hopes will one day ferry the first humans to go to Mars, and a fiery ending was not totally unexpected. Musk attempted to dampen expectations before the flight, saying in one tweet that he predicted the “SN8” vehicle, the name for the Starship prototype used Wednesday, had a one-in-three chance of landing safely back on Earth.