A private company successfully launched the world’s largest and most powerful rocket into space from the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. Falcon Heavy is the newest in a lineup of rockets from Space X, a company founded by Elon Musk in 2002.
The California-based company is working to further the colonization of Mars. So far the company has successfully sent the first privately funded rocket to the International Space Station (2012), and has developed rocket boosters that can be both retrieved and reused. This cuts costs compared to previous governmental programs and private competitors.
Falcon Heavy was able to achieve lift-off and have all three boosters, each containing 9 Merlin engines, safely land. One booster landed on a barge on the Atlantic (UPDATE: Since publication of this article, Space X has confirmed the middle core missed this barge), and two landed on Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1.
Blue Origin, spearheaded by Jeff Bezos, is a stiff competitor in the private sector that is also creating reusable rockets, with the goal of having people live and work in space. Blue Origin beat SpaceX in having a rocket land successfully for reuse, and both companies have a friendly back and forth competition.
A third company, Virgin Galactic, led by Richard Branson, is working on commercially available space flights, and just conducted a successful landing.
The payload of this launch by SpaceX was something unique, as well: a cherry red Tesla, with a dummy in a spacesuit safely strapped in, and the car’s radio playing “Space Oddity” at launch time. “Starman” has his own Twitter feed already, broadcasting his progress in space live.
Before the launch, Musk tweeted a simulation of what it would look like, complete with the space bound Tesla.
Falcon Heavy sends a car to Mars https://t.co/Y7uBtU6Mt2
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 5, 2018
The car’s circuitry is stamped that it was made on Earth by humans.
Before the Tesla can reach Mars, it must go through the Van Allen radiation belts, and then the car is bound for a wide orbit around Mars, where SpaceX hopes it will remain for “millions or billions of years.”
“When the car reaches Mars, it will be going 25,000 MPH, and because of its trajectory it could crash into Mars,” SpaceX said.
These companies are leading the way back into space, and showing that private companies can push the boundaries of exploration beyond earth too.
UPDATE: Because the Tesla’s thrusters were on too long it now won’t orbit Mars. It’ll end up in the asteroid belt beyond that instead.