The private space company SpaceX has launched its largest rocket yet Tuesday, sending a cherry red Tesla Roadster into an elliptical Earth-Mars orbit.
The Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on the same launch pad from which NASA’s Apollo 11 lifted off in 1969 on the first mission that landed astronauts on the moon.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters before the launch Tuesday he “would consider it a win if it just clears the pad and doesn’t blow the pad to smithereens.”
The rocket is equipped with three boosters and 27 engines designed to provide more than 2 million kilograms of thrust. If successful, it will be the most powerful rocket in use today, and the most powerful used since NASA’s Saturn 5 rockets last carried astronauts to the moon 45 years ago.
The Falcon Heavy was first designed to send humans to the moon or Mars, but Musk said Monday it is now being considered as a carrier of equipment and supplies to deep space destinations.
While such test rockets usually use items like steel or concrete slabs as payload, but the Tesla Roadster made by another company owned by Musk, carried a mannequin “Starman” sitting at the wheel and the radio set to play David Bowie’s classic hit Space Oddity on a loop.
In a tweet last month, Musk said he loves the thought of a car driving -apparently endlessly through space and, perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.