SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says 'absurd' Starman launch boosts interest
Feb 08 2018 by Elias Hubbard
A Falcon 9 single-booster launch costs an estimated $60 million, even though the Heavy has three times the lift capability. That's more liftoff punch than any other rocket now operating in the world - by a factor of two - but less than NASA's old space shuttles and Saturn V moon rockets. Instead, the auto will whiz past the Red Planet by a much larger margin than expected and zoom off out into the asteroid belt. Musk confirmed at a press conference Tuesday night the rocket made a crash landing.
In the vehicle was a dummy called Starman at the wheel, reminiscent of Top Gear's The Stig.
So what could possibly be wrong with this groundbreaking test flight? Musk found that "boring" and put his cherry-red Tesla on top.
Though it started as a publicity stunt tying billionaire Elon Musk's electric auto company to his rocket firm, the image of that vehicle and driver in space quickly became a source of social media delight, getting posted and re-posted on web pages around the world. "So I think it's going to encourage other countries and companies to raise their sights and say 'Hey we can do bigger and better, which is great. It's still tripping me out". SpaceX has said it aspires to send missions to Mars in the coming years.
SpaceX was hopeful the rocket and its $200,000 (£143,000) cargo enter a billion year orbit reaching Mars, but it appears the dummy Starman had different plans in mind.
The Roadster was also outfitted with a data storage unit containing Isaac Asimov's science fiction book series, the Foundation Trilogy, and a plaque bearing the names of 6,000 SpaceX employees. Arnold is preparing for his own ride to the International Space Station next month.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, offered his own congratulations in a tweet, also thanking NASA and the 45th Space Wing, which operates the Eastern Range. "Awesome! At this speed, two hands on the steering wheel please #Starman".
About eight minutes after blast-off, both side-mounted boosters on Falcon Heavy made picture ideal side-by-side upright intact landings at Kennedy Air Force Station LZ-1 and LZ-2, seven miles south of the launch site.
Musk helped ignite the excitement of the space industry when he sent the most powerful rocket in the world on its first test flight.
SpaceX's webcast showed the Tesla Roadster soaring into space, as David Bowie's "Space Oddity" played in the background - with the words "DON'T PANIC" visible on the dashboard, in an apparent nod to the sci-fi series the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Quite what the first BFR will carry as a test payload hasn't been decided, Musk said, but he was happy with the way the Roadster launch went down, er, up.
Tom Cross and Thaddeus Cesari photobomb Falcon Heavy ahead of its historic launch. These short hops would take the ship several miles high and then come back down for a landing.
"If I could have picked anything I would have picked the center core to explode", Musk said.
The powerful ITS would fly to Marsin as little as 80 days at first, and Musk said in 2016 that he thinks he can cut this to 30 days as the system improves. "It can launch things direct to Pluto and beyond, no stop needed".