Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launches His Car To Mars

Image Source: SpaceX

Starman riding Elon’s Tesla Roadster, on a trip to Mars (Image Source: SpaceX)

This week that guy, Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), who is trying to improve US public transport by making underground tunnels and trying to fight off a hostile-A.I.-takeover-possible future while selling torches that he calls “flamethrowers”, takes that first step towards his dream by doing what people thought to be one of his crazy jokes: launching his cherry-red Tesla Roadster to Mars.

The Joke That Never Was

When Elon Musk told people about sending his Tesla Roadster to Mars aboard SpaceX’s newest rocket, the most powerful rocket currently in existence: The Falcon Heavy, everyone thought it was a joke. Elon, being a bit of an eccentric and a dreamer, was serious: the plan was to test the Falcon Heavy using the car as the payload. The plan to test it has been in development for 5 years. According to SpaceX’s YouTube post explaining what they planned to do, posted months after the incident, the rocket is capable of lifting 64 metric tons of mass into the orbit. The post brags that the Falcon Heavy can lift more than 2 times the mass that the Delta IV Heavy, a rocket manufactured by United Launch Alliance, can with only 1/3 the cost.

Part of the reason why it’s cost-efficient is that it’s reusable. In another video by SpaceX in September 2017, it showed just how SpaceX intended on doing this: the discharged rockets must perfectly land on a target area after disconnecting from the payload. The video showed just how hard it was to do that and how long it took them to create the rockets. The tendency for the functions to miscalculate or stop working entirely, because of a number of possible reasons, means that the test rockets explode in the air, crash, explode because it tipped on one side when landing, the landing legs malfunctioned, and so forth and so on.

During The Launch

The capsule that houses the Roadster during preparations (Image Source: Indiana Times)

The capsule that houses the Roadster during preparations (Image Source: Indiana Times)

During the fateful day, people went to Florida to watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch while the event was streamed over the Internet with millions watching curiously. The launch was delayed for three hours due to strong winds. Elon thinks that the success rate is at 50-50. Either he launches that Roadster to Mars or see it fail, where it might crash into the sea or explode mid-flight. Surprisingly, all went well. The rocket successfully launched on 3.45pm local time, from Kennedy Space Center.

The rocket was launched and when the payload was revealed David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” started playing. The payload is his cherry-red Tesla Roadster, onboard is a dummy named “Starman” and the Earth’s blue sphere was in the background. On the dashboard is a sticker that reads “Don’t Panic”, referencing “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, one of Elon’s favorite novel series as a teenager.  It was easily one of the most dramatic scenes of the event. People were cheering as the two rockets safely land on target, while the Roadster drifts into space bound for Mars. Elon remarked in an interview that everything was surreal to him and that he’s proud of his SpaceX team for making it happen. This is, however, just one small step for Elon: he has always expressed his wish to enable space flight to Mars.

To Mars And Beyond

Image Source:

The Tesla Roadset is going near the orbit of Ceres instead(Image Source:

The original plan that came out on the Internet was to launch the car to Mars, which is going to pass by in the nearest place it can be by Earth’s orbit around the 2nd half of this year. The car will then orbit around Mars. But later statements tell that the SpaceX team has made a few wrong calculations and now it is estimated to be hurling past Mars’ orbit to the Asteroid Belt where, if it is lucky enough not to get hit by any debris, will curve back towards the Sun in its own orbit around it.

But this doesn’t break the hopes of some people that this launch will herald the beginning of a new era of space exploration. Just three years ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson said that private companies will never do it. With several other scientists, they mocked Musk’s efforts to space travel because he’s a private enterprise. Now that Elon was able to pull it off, who knows what the future will bring.