(CNN) — Rocket launches are like opening a box of chocolates, only riskier— you never know what you’re going to get.

And there is always a chance that things can explode.

As humans, we can’t help but be drawn to spectacles. When a rocket is set to leap off the launchpad, there’s a good chance of seeing a stunning liftoff or a spectacular failure.

The lead-up to this week’s launch of SpaceX’s Starship, the most powerful rocket ever built, was a dramatic roller coaster.

Years of explosive tests, increasing hype and a multitude of hurdles culminated in what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called “an exciting test launch” on Thursday morning — but not everything went according to plan.

Defying gravity

Initially, the historic first test flight of Starship appeared to be going smoothly. The rocket blasted off from the launchpad in South Texas and roared 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) over the Gulf of Mexico.

When it was time for the rocket boosters to separate from the spacecraft, the entire stack lost some of its engines and began to tumble before the flight termination system triggered a midair explosion.

Musk and SpaceX regard the test as successful because it completed a number of objectives for a vehicle that could carry astronauts to the moon or Mars one day.

But the company will have to work through challenges to achieve significant milestones before Musk’s vision becomes a reality.

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