If that image alone doesn’t excite you, nothing will. At 3:45 PM EST Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast. For the next several HUNDRED MILLION YEARS there will be a red Tesla Roadster, with a dummy in a SpaceX suit nicknamed Starman, orbiting in an elliptic loop around Mars and the Sun. Let that sink in for a few minutes. The question becomes: what if some apocalyptic event hits Earth and aliens find Starman in the Roadster?
Musk, the founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla among other things has launched the most powerful rocket in the world. It was the most powerful private launch ever. It was the first time since 2011 that anything capable of getting man to the moon, Mars or beyond has been launched from the US. And it was almost a perfect success.
The rocket is made of three Falcon boosters, which are reusable craft powered by nine Merlin engines. That means the Falcon Heavy has 27 Merlin engines producing 5.1 Million pounds of thrust and can carry up to 140,000 pounds into Low Earth Orbit. Not since the Saturn rockets of the space race have we had this much power.
Musk, who I am positive could be a real life Iron Man if he wanted, launched his own personal Tesla Roadster as the test payload. It is the fourth electric vehicle launched into space (NASA launched three lunar rovers in the 70’s).
The top image is of Starman jamming out to David Bowie. You can clearly see the reflection of the Earth reflecting in the visor and the driver’s side door. Around 100,000 people made the trek to Florida’s Space Coast to watch the historic launch. There are plenty of videos online from professionals and amateurs alike showing the rocket lift off.
The main mission was delivering the payload into space and it was a rousing success. The secondary mission was returning all three Falcons to Earth to be reused. Two landed on pads at Kennedy Space Complex. The third was supposed to land on the floating drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You.”
The side boosters returned to Earth in a scene straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. The center core wasn’t so lucky. Only one of its three engines fired up for descent. Unfortunately it slammed into the ocean at 300 mph, damaging two of the drone ship’s engines.
All in all it was such an impressive feat there are no words I can use to describe even a tenth of its wonder and glory. SpaceX has managed to capture America’s collective imagination. They have once again excited us about space, about going beyond our planet.
Elon Musk’s goal is for humans to become a milti-planetary species. Perhaps by using the Moon as a springboard we can realize that goal. Lunar bases and humans on Mars used to be pure fantasy. Today they are closer to reality than ever before. It’s possible that during my lifetime man may set foot on an alien planet.
Until then, at least this guy is cruising around…