On Tuesday, SpaceX celebrated the successful launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a red Tesla Roadster. Three rockets strapped together were required to give the car a big enough boost to leave Earth’s gravity and send it into orbit about the sun. Two of those rockets re-landed safely back on Earth. The only mishap, minor in the big picture, was the loss of the third booster which missed the drone ship landing pad and struck the Atlantic Ocean at around 300 mph.
Live views of Starman and Tesla Roadster taken by cameras mounted on the car
The Roadster’s orbit now takes it just beyond Mars but not quite as far as the asteroid belt. It will now circle around the sun for millions of years as one of mankind’s odder legacies. It was a brilliant move to include the “Starman” mannequin in the driver’s seat. Should an extraterrestrial stumble across the vehicle one day, the dummy will provide the key clue about how a car is operated.
Tesla Roadster travels from 2018 to 2067 / Tom Ruen
I’ve heard some complaints about junking an expensive car. Why not send something useful into space like a satellite? That’s a good thought until you remember that the Falcon Heavy was a test launch, designed to demonstrate the rocket’s ability to launch heavy objects like manned spacecraft, orbiting observatories and large satellites into orbit or to the moon or Mars. Would you want your multi-million dollar satellite to potentially blow up on the launch pad? During some launches, concrete is used as a mass simulator. A car’s much more fun.
The video from SpaceX is incredible if only because it’s real. Struts holding video cameras were mounted on the Tesla that record its travels near Earth in real time. Watch how the lighting angle changes as the “craft” orbits. Simply amazing. While the video makes it appear as if the car is alone in space, I just found out that it remains attached to the Falcon second stage. Video was only taken for some hours after the Roadster was sent up into orbit. Wish SpaceX would have sent up solar panels and equipment to keep it running for a few years.
The pair is on its way out of the Earth-moon system and far too faint to see in amateur telescopes. But just for fun you can imagine its location in far eastern Hydra (the sea serpent) where it borders Libra about 12° southwest of Jupiter.