Cape Canaveral - The world's most powerful rocket, SpaceX's Falcon heavy, roared into space yesterday with unusual cargo onboard: a Tesla Roadster.
Both SpaceX and Tesla belong to billionaire South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk, and the much publicised launch was an important milestone for SpaceX which is vying for lucrative contracts with Nasa, satellite companies and the US military. The succesful launch takes Musk one step forward to realizing his dream of sending humans to Mars on larger rockets.
In front of around 2000 spectators, the 23-storey-tall rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3.45pm on Tuesday. The playful cross-promotional space theatre with two of Musk's products saw the electric-powered Tesla Roadster sent into solar orbit on a path taking it deep into our solar system. Adding to the whimsy, the car was playing David Bowie's "Space Oddity" while a space-suited mannequin sat in the driver's seat of the car - Musk mused that "it may be discovered by some future alien race."
The words "Don't panic" also appear on the car's infotainment screen, a famous quote from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book.
"Falcon Heavy sends a car to Mars," Musk said on Monday on Twitter, but the Tesla Roadster seems to be going farther out into the Solar System than originally planned. The car was supposed to be put on a path around the Sun that would take the vehicle out to the distance of Mars’ orbit. But the rocket carrying the car seems to have overshot that trajectory and has put the Tesla in an orbit that extends out into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where it could float in space for billions of years.