SpaceX launched “the most powerful operational rocket in the world” on Tuesday, sending a Tesla Roadster on a path toward Mars.
A triumphant SpaceX chief Elon Musk said that the project’s cherry-red payload, his personal vehicle, was “silly and fun.” A dummy of a “Starman” was behind the wheel, apparently enjoying the ride and listening to David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” song — as seen on an ongoing space video stream.
Update: Musk later shared the “last” photo that would be available of the Starman on his voyage, with the Earth in crescent in the background (top). /update
The so-called Falcon Heavy should give SpaceX another big boost in the commercial space race, owing to its massive payload capacity.
The rocket’s three boosters returned to Earth, with two landing safely at a launch pad. The other crash landed at sea. SpaceX had played down chances of success for even the launch itself.
Liftoff occurred, after several delays, at 3:45 p.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast.
“Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit,” SpaceX said. That historic rocket was launched from the same facility.
Of the Tesla stunt, SpaceX said, “Demonstration missions like this one typically carry steel or concrete blocks as mass simulators, but SpaceX decided it would be more worthwhile to launch something fun and without irreplaceable sentimental value: a red Roadster for the red planet.”