Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, put on a stunning show Tuesday with the inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which became the most powerful operational rocket in the world.
It was a demo mission, so the goal was just to show that the rocket could fire up its engines and fly into space.
Test flights typically have a dummy payload, such as a big hunk of metal, so that nothing important or expensive is damaged if the rocket blows up.
But Musk decided to offer up his personal Tesla roadster. The Falcon Heavy launch was nearly perfect, and the roadster is headed for orbit around the sun. Its path will take it as far away as Mars, and, later, as close to the sun as the Earth. Behind the wheel is Starman, a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit.
“I appreciate that the Tesla Roadster is a grand gesture which has certainly fulfilled the aim of raising awareness of space,” said Alice Gorman at the College of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Flinders University in Australia and an expert on space debris.