Yes! Its true, there is a Tesla car cruising space! Elon Musk the CEO of SpaceX, wanted to launch a 'silly' payload for SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket debut flight because a rocket's first flight is risky, usually aerospace companies launch massive concrete blocks as dummy payload because the first flight has potential to fail. He wanted to launch something that would inspire the public if the launch was successful instead of doing what all companies do and launch a boring concrete block. In December 2017, Musk shared that the dummy payload for Falcon Heavy's first launch would be his personal midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing David Bowie's "Life on Mars", and that it would be launched into an orbit around the Sun.
Today is the second anniversary of SpaceX Falcon Heavy's inspiring debut flight that launched a Tesla Roadster to space!
On February 6, 2018, SpaceX conducted Falcon Heavy's first flight, the rocket lifted-off from historic launch Pad 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The successful test turned Falcon Heavy into the most powerful rocket in operation, it produced about five million pounds of thrust (22MN). During the mission, SpaceX broadcasted live as the Tesla Roadster was successfully placed into orbit. It was a very inspiring to watch an actual car orbiting around Earth (video below) while the radio played "Life on Mars" by David Bowie. Positioned in the driver's seat is Starman, a mannequin dressed as an astronaut.
Several minutes after lift-off, Falcon Heavy's two first-stage booster cores returned from space, simultaneously landing vertically with the power of their own engines at Landing Zones 1 and 2. That day, SpaceX made history! No other rocket company has recovered rockets in a flawless synchronized landing - a huge accomplishment in the history of rocketry. SpaceX teams have truly innovated the aerospace industry with their engineering talent.
Inside the vehicle there is a copy of Douglas Adams' novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, along with references to the novel -a sign on the dashboard that reads "DON'T PANIC!" The Tesla also carries a copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy on a 5D optical disc, which is a long-lasting data storage, donated to Musk by the Arch Mission Foundation. The most beautiful gesture is that there is a plaque placed underneath the car with the names of all SpaceX employees who worked hard to accomplish this mission. There is also a message on a circuit board that says "Made on Earth by Humans."
After the launch, Musk wholeheartedly said:
"Life cannot just be about solving one sad problem after another. There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity. That is why we did it. We did for you."
Millions from across the world were inspired by Falcon Heavy's debut flight, due to the craziness of launching a Tesla car to space. Many kids and teenagers were likely inspired to become engineers, astronauts, etc. The United States had not seen that level of excitement for a rocket launch ever since man set foot on the moon during NASA's Apollo missions.
The Tesla Roadster was mounted on the rocket's second stage, it acquired enough velocity to escape Earth's gravity and enter an elliptical heliocentric orbit that crossed the orbit of Mars. You can see where the Tesla Roadster is at this time by using this website - Where's The Roadster? - that has been tracking its location. The photo above is the chart showing where the Tesla Roadster is as of February 6, 2020.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.