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SpaceX crew off to ISS as Elon Musk’s foundation launches $100M carbon removal prize

The tech entrepreneur said he is confident SpaceX can help astronauts return to the moon by 2024 or sooner.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Four astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station. A spectacular, pre-dawn launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Friday was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA.

The astronauts from the U.S., Japan and France should reach the ISS on Saturday morning. Medical research will be a large focus of the six-month mission.

During their mission, the crew will conduct science experiments, complete maintenance on the ISS and even overlap with the Crew-1 astronauts.

It's the third crew flight in less than a year for Elon Musk's rapidly expanding company.

Musk said he's confident SpaceX can help astronauts return to the moon by 2024 or sooner. His company won a nearly $3 billion contract with NASA that includes building a variation of its Starship rocket. SpaceX tested prototypes in South Texas, and some of them exploded during the landing.

As part of the Artemis program, NASA hopes to put the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. The mission would mark the first time since 1972 that humans have touched down on the lunar surface.

Meanwhile, Musk and his foundation have launched the $100 million XPrize Carbon Removal contest. The goal is to find ways to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air or oceans.

"We're looking for pragmatic solutions," Musk said in a live announcement on Periscope this week. "It doesn't need to be perfect, but it's got to be something that, fundamentally, if we scaled it up, would it work? That's it."

The competition is open to anyone around the world, and organizers are calling it the largest incentive prize in history.

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