Ever the showman, Elon Musk has announced his plans (via Agence France-Presse) to not only launch one of the largest rockets ever into Mars orbit next month, but to have it carrying his own cherry-red Tesla with the radio blasting “Space Oddity” as it goes:
Many wondered if Musk was joking last week when he tweeted his plans for the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural payload to be his “midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity,” the classic song by the late David Bowie.
“Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent,” the famed space enthusiast and Internet tycoon said on Twitter on Friday.
But SpaceX confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that the plan is for real.
Touted as the “world’s most powerful rocket,” the Falcon Heavy is designed to one day carry crew and supplies to deep space destinations such as the Moon and Mars.
It can propel 119,000 pounds (54 metric tons) — or the same as a fully loaded Boeing 737 jet — into orbit, twice the load of the Delta IV Heavy, currently the biggest rocket in operation.
The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of the California-based company’s Falcon 9 rockets put together, with 27 Merlin engines instead of nine.
SpaceX says it will cost a third of what it costs to launch the Delta IV.
A date has not yet been set for the Falcon Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, which has been delayed several times — but SpaceX says it should happen in January 2018.
I love that song, but I have to admit part of me wonders if branding the future of space exploration with a story about a doomed astronaut vanishing into the void is truly wise. Beautiful, sure.