SpaceX’s big new rocket blasted off Tuesday on its first test flight, carrying a red electric sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.
The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.
For SpaceX, the private rocket company run by Elon Musk, it was a mostly triumphant test of a new, larger rocket designed to hoist supersize satellites as well as equipment to the moon, Mars or other far-flung points. For the test flight, a red sports car made by another of Musk’s companies, Tesla, was the unusual cargo, enclosed in protective covering for the launch.
The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Sticker Spacex, as thousands watched from surrounding beaches, bridges and roads, jamming the highways in scenes unmatched since NASA’s last space shuttle flight. At SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, employees screamed, whistled and raised pumped fists into the air as the launch commentators called off each milestone. Millions more watched online, making it the second biggest livestream in YouTube history.
Viewers were left with video images beamed from space of Musk’s red Roadster circling the blue planet after the protective covering had dropped away and exposed the car. A space-suited mannequin was at the wheel, named «Starman» after the David Bowie song.
«It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly and fun things are important,» said the SpaceX chief who also runs Tesla and is keen to colonize Mars. «The imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world.»