Musk shoots his ‘space oddity’ successfully to Mars
On Tuesday SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket on earth for now, has launched successfully Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla Roadster into space on its way to Mars. With ‘Starman’ on the wheel it certainly will be the ‘fastest car in the universe’ at 42.000 kph.
An open roadster with absolutely useless wheels in a vacuous space, a mannequin in a space suit at the steering wheel with his left arm loosely on the door and David Bowie’s 1971 ‘Live on Mars’ playing soundless on the radio in an infinite loop, never to be heard in the airless environment.
After orbiting the earth a few times, the car is to take off in an elliptic orbit around the sun and on its way to Mars, where it will circle for centuries to come. If extraterrestrials are to discover it, they would certainly call it a ‘space oddity’, another world-famous Bowie classic from 1969. Assuming that they speak English as they always do in Hollywood movies…
The charismatic founder and owner of companies like Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk (46), has undoubtedly excelled in his latest stunt, that he was preparing since 2011. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V from NASA, which brought the astronauts to the Moon.
18 Jumbo Jets
With a thrust of 2.500 tons out of 27 Merline engines, the equivalent of 18 Jumbo Jets, the rocket lifted off NASA’s launch platform in Cape Canaveral two hours after the set launching time. After two minutes the booster rockets on the side detached to return to earth and land as in a timed ballet, next to each other on their platforms on the Cape.
Once in orbit around the earth, the Tesla Roadster with Starman on board was launched successfully on its voyage ‘to boldly go were no car has gone before’, to Mars. Replacing the commonly used dummy load of concrete blocks in test flights by a Tesla Roadster is one of Musk’s better publicity stunts so far.
Centre core crashes
The centre core of the rocket had to land on a floating platform in the ocean, but with two of the three engines failing to ignite for breaking because of lack of fuel, it crashed at 480 kph some 100 metres away from its destined landing spot. Elon Musk wasn’t disappointed though, he always took into account this test launch could end in a “nice firework display” too.
He said the landing of both side-boosters was more essential, because they are equipped with titanium grid fins that are very expensive and difficult to make and will be recuperated for further missions.
Musk and his team had hoped to recuperate the rocket’s fairing too, the nose cone on top that contained the Tesla, but this failed due to the shape of the cone disturbing the parachute’s air flow at the landing. The fairing is made of aluminum and carbon and costs several millions.
The overall mission of the Falcon Heavy’s first flight was a tremendous success. It was to prove it is possible to bring 63,8 tons of ‘useful payload’ into orbit at ‘a third of the price’ of the Delta IV Heavy, which was the world’s most powerful actual rocket until today. Launching a Delta IV Heavy costs about 350 million dollar.