SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully executed its test launch, delivering its whimsical payload to space, including SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster, a dummy in a SpaceX-designed spacesuit named Starman, and a few other items.
More ludicrous than Ludicrous Mode? 27 Merlin engines lighting off like a candle.
The Falcon Heavy was the actual star of the February 6 launch, but interest in the rocket faded to mainstream viewers relative to the Tesla Roadster, which SpaceX positioned within a capsule in the rocket’s nose. Once in space, the capsule’s walls were jettisoned to enable a few cameras to capture different angles of the space-bound electric sports car and the ultra-chill Starman. A few clever Easter eggs were scattered throughout the Tesla, too, from the touchscreen display reading “Don’t Panic!” (a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) to a tiny Tesla Roadster Hot Wheels model—complete with its own tiny Starman—set atop the dashboard.
The driver, Starman, appears not to be panicking.
Also onboard the Tesla? A plaque with the signatures of 6000 SpaceX employees on it, as well as a high-tech 5D glass-disc storage unit with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series. The storage setup renders information in three dimensions within a glass disc capable of holding 360 terabytes of information and lasting for 13.8 billion years. The idea is that far-flung life forms might find it somewhere in space and learn about Earth, perhaps long after we’ve gone extinct. Neat.
If you’re like us, and you’re kind of geeked on the fact that an actual car has been sent into space, you’ll be happy to learn that SpaceX is running an onboard live stream as the Roadster hurtles off into the crushing darkness toward a claimed several-hundred-million-year heliocentric orbit explained in detail here by our pals at Popular Mechanics. You can watch the Starman stream at the bottom of this post.
As for the Falcon Heavy, which is designed to carry loads more than three times as heavy as those that SpaceX’s smaller (and by comparison long-serving) Falcon 9 rocket does, its mission appears to have been a success. Two of its booster stages successfully landed back on Earth to be reused—and they landed in near perfect sequence alongside each other following dual sonic booms, a freaky and impressive sight to behold—although at publication time the fate of the third stage (called the center core) during its attempted landing on a drone barge in the ocean is an open question. Twitter users currently hoping for news on its fate are using a #prayforcentercore hashtag, because of course they are.
Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to see you yet again . . .
Impressed? Have $90 million? You, too, can send 140,660 pounds of your favorite stuff to low orbit aboard a Falcon Heavy. Want to go farther and/or have less junk? SpaceX says it can punt a Falcon Heavy and 37,040 pounds of Teslas, Starmen, and whatever to Mars. Watch a live stream of Starman’s journey below, and we’ve embedded the replay of the launch, too: