Elon Musk has done it again. This time the South African-born tech billionaire used the world’s most powerful rocket to launch his personal Tesla Roadster into orbit.
SpaceX, founded and owned by Musk, successfully launched its largest reusable rocket yet, the Falcon Heavy. On board was another Musk creation, the Tesla Roadster, which is currently on trajectory to the Asteroid Belt to spend eternity orbiting the sun.
The Falcon Heavy rocket is the evolutionary product of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has proven itself through 49 launches since 2010. Falcon Heavy is made up of three Falcon 9 rockets, and is able to lift 141,000 lbs into orbit.
Falcon Heavy lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Feb. 6 before a large crowd, and over 15 million youtube viewers. The 230 foot tall craft sent four sonic booms across the sky before exiting Earth’s atmosphere.
The two side booster rockets separated and returned to Earth, landing on their landing zones in almost perfect unison. The third rocket, the center core, splashed down in the ocean at 300 mph, missing its intended landing zone onboard a drone ship.
The center core was intended to be guided to the drone ship using three of the engines it contained. Only one of these ignited, which caused the miss.
Even though it may not have returned perfectly, its mission was deemed a success. The Tesla Roadster on board was released into a six hour coasting orbit of Earth before the upper stage, or third burn, was ignited to send it to its final orbit around Mars.
This Tesla Roadster is not like others. For one thing there isn’t a human in the driver’s seat. Instead the pilot is a mannequin fondly referred to as Spaceman.
Spaceman was sent to orbit in the Roadster with the radio blasting David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Also, the screen in the car’s dashboard says “DON’T PANIC!”
In a post on Instagram, Musk showed a picture of the circuit board on the car, and he had a custom inscription put on it that reads “Made on Earth by Humans.”
One other issue for the launch was that the Roadster overshot Mars and is now heading towards the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
If nothing else, this test has allowed SpaceX to learn its capabilities, and what they still need to work on.
Musk continues to plan for the future of SpaceX, and has more launches being readied for later this year. One such mission will even include two paying tourists that will be sent around the moon and back.
According to SpaceX the purpose of these missions is to seek out viable resources to ensure that Mars is sustainable and habitable for a future “self-sustaining civilization on Mars” and intend to make life multiplanetary. By 2022, they plan to deploy their first cargo mission to Mars. The building of the facility is in progress and the development of the ship will start soon after.
In 2024, a second mission will take place. Four ships – two carrying cargo and two carrying the crew – will be flown to start the building of the Mars base. As time goes on and ships arrive, the city will start to advance and become much like the cities we see here on Earth.
“It is quite a beautiful picture. You know that on Mars, dawn and dusk are blue. The sky is blue at dawn and dusk [is] red during the day. It’s the opposite of Earth,” said Musk.
The company’s objective is space travel, but they also acknowledge a fascinating possibility: traveling from place to place, on Earth, in a rocket. SpaceX calculated the time it would take to travel long distances. Most travels would take 30 minutes or less. By plane, the journey from Los Angeles to New York would take 5 hours and 25 minutes; by BFR (SpaceX’s future rocket), it would only take 25 minutes.
With so much in store for the company, SpaceX continues to need new talent to come to their team. At the end of their live broadcast, Brian Mahlstedt, an automation software engineer with the company, said “If you would like to join us on exciting projects like these, please visit spacex.com/careers.”