- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk set low expectations for Tuesday's debut launch of the new Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center. After the Falcon Heavy successfully flew into the sky, it detached its twin boosters, and instead of simply letting them crash into the ocean somewhere, SpaceX managed to land both boosters safely and almost simultaneously. "I had this image of a giant explosion on the pad with a wheel bouncing down the road with the Tesla logo landing somewhere. But fortunately that's not what happened", he told reporters after the event.
If radiation doesn't zap the electronics of the upper-stage rocket, its engines will fire up, accelerate Musk's Roadster to about 24,600 miles per hours, and inject it into orbit that will loop indefinitely between Earth and Mars. Tuesday's Falcon Heavy launch carried with it his own cherry-red Tesla electric roadster, flung towards the red planet to the strains of David Bowie's "Life on Mars".
According to the Guardian Musk's $100,000 cherry red Tesla Roadster sports auto was also onboard.
Adding to the whimsy, SpaceX planted a space-suited mannequin in the driver's seat of the convertible Tesla Roadster.
Musk has admitted his test payload is "silly", but Falcon Heavy's successful lift-off - a system that will cost about US$90 million per launch - could disrupt the industry. So, the next Falcon Heavy launch, whenever it is, will be powered by a brand-new center core and two other side boosters.
"Wow, did you guys see that?" Their landing legs made with the ground virtually at the same time. "The tension was soon replaced with a feeling of euphoria I had maybe only during my first-ever launch after I had just joined the firm".
But the centre booster, which was to land on the floating platform off the coast, missed its target and slammed into the ocean at 500 km/h, with shrapnel taking out the cameras and damaging the platform.
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In the original plan, the auto and the dummy that is sat in it would have gone into orbit between Mars and Earth, slowly passing around the solar system.
In this case, the second stage was not adversely affected, and fired as scheduled.
As private companies become more involved in space exploration, a new space race could emerge in the near future.
After Steve Jobs, the rightful, and possibly the sole claimant to the title of an entrepreneur-visionary, is Elon Musk.
"It'll be like trying to sell an aircraft where one aircraft company has a reusable aircraft and all the other companies had aircraft that were single-use where you would parachute out at your destination and the plane would crash-land randomly somewhere".
Up until recently, such rockets were very much a government business.