Permanent musical accompaniment David Bowie- Space Oddity Original Video (1969).
For here am I sitting in my tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
This is so cool! The Jetsons predicted that we would have flying cars by now, and here it is. SpaceX successfully launches the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, as it sends a Tesla on a path near Mars:
SpaceX successfully launched what is now the world’s most powerful rocket Tuesday, a towering behemoth known as the Falcon Heavy that tore through the sky with the thundering force of 18 Boeing 747 jetliners.
Lifting off at 3:45 p.m. from the same launchpad that sent the crew of Apollo 11 to the moon, the rocket sent up a mountain-sized plume of smoke and a rattling roar across Florida’s Space Coast, where thousands gathered to watch. The mission represented the first test of the massive rocket, powered by 27 engines in three first-stage boosters that are essentially strapped together.
The maiden flight also marked the first time a privately financed venture ever attempted to launch a rocket so powerful that it was capable of hoisting a payload out of Earth’s orbit. As a promotional stunt, SpaceX founder Elon Musk loaded the Falcon Heavy with his own cherry-red Tesla Roadster carrying a spacesuit-clad mannequin named “Starman” in the driver’s seat. Musk said he planned to send the convertible, built by another one of his companies, into an orbit around the sun that would take it near Mars.
At SpaceX’s headquarters, throngs of employees cheered wildly as the rocket soared out of the atmosphere.
“I’m still trying to absorb everything that happened because it seemed surreal to me,” Musk told reporters later. “I had an image of a giant explosion on the pad with a wheel bouncing down the road and the Tesla logo landing somewhere. But fortunately that’s not what happened. The mission seemed to have gone as well as possible.”
If SpaceX can fly the Falcon Heavy reliably, the rocket could prove useful to the Pentagon for lifting national security satellites and to NASA for helping its human exploration goals. SpaceX says the rocket is capable of hauling more mass farther than any existing rocket — an estimated 140,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, and nearly 40,000 pounds to Mars.
* * *
[T]he Falcon Heavy’s successful launch represents a “revival of the exploring spirit,” said John Logsdon, a space historian who is a professor emeritus at George Washington University.
NASA’s space shuttle program, which ended in 2011, was limited to what’s known as low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station flies at about 250 miles above the surface of the earth.
But the Falcon Heavy represents a chance to go beyond that, into deep space, to really “push the frontier,” Logsdon said. “This really gives us a capability that this country has not had since the last Saturn V flight, which was in 1973.”
“It’s hard for me to overstate the importance of the launch today,” said Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator. “I think this could end up being really the savior of NASA and deep space exploration.”
* * *
SpaceX’s successful launch raises questions for NASA about how best to proceed. For years, the space agency has been working to develop the Space Launch System, an even more powerful rocket than the Falcon Heavy, but at about $1 billion per launch, it is many times more expensive. Ross said there is room for both systems.
“Space is a big, big thing,” he said.
After the launch, SpaceX broadcast a live stream from the Roadster in space using the three cameras mounted to the vehicle. In addition to carrying a plaque with the names of 6,000 SpaceX employees, the car also transported a data storage device containing Isasac Asimov’s classic Foundation science fiction trilogy.
And then there is this guy (oy). Mike Hughes, a California man, seeking to prove that a conspiracy of astronauts fabricated the shape of the Earth, planned to launch himself 1,800 feet high in a rocket he built from scrap metal in the hope to photograph proof that the Earth is flat. OK, so how did that go? A flat-earther finally tried to fly away. His rocket didn’t even ignite.
A man who claims that Earth is flat tried to leave it in a homemade rocket Saturday but failed to overcome the gravitational force of a 13,166,800,000,000,000,000,000,000-pound sphere directly beneath him.
In fairness to Mike Hughes, he knows how to build a rocket. He built them for many years under the precepts of classical physics, when he was still a relatively conventional daredevil, which is to say, one who believed Earth is round.
But Saturday marked Hughes’s third aborted launch since he declared himself a flat-earther last year and announced a multipart plan to fly to space by the end of 2018 so he could prove astronauts have been lying about the shape of the planet.
The Washington Post, like many news outlets, covered Hughes’s plan. In retrospect, we admit, there was never any chance he’d pull it off.
Hughes blamed technical difficulties — possibly a bad O-ring — for his steam-powered rocket’s failure to ignite this weekend in the Mojave Desert. But even if it had, and even if he managed to subsequently rocket-pack himself into space by the end of the year, his mission would have ended at worst in death, and at best in disappointment as he realized what ancient Greeks and schoolchildren already knew: The world is round; it has always been round; Mike Hughes will never see its edges.
If you were already caught up on the saga, feel free to skip directly to our coverage of Saturday’s sad launch. If you need a recap, here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of The Post’s coverage of Hughes’s flat-Earth space mission.
It takes all kinds.