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December 2, 2017

Elon Musk’s crazy new plan combines Mars, David Bowie, and a Tesla Roadster

by John_A

Back in March, outspoken entrepreneur Elon Musk teased on Twitter that the payload for the upcoming SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket would be the “silliest thing we can imagine!” Now he has revealed his plans — and it sound like something inspired by the intro to the 1981 movie Heavy Metal.

Musk tweeted that the payload for the test launch would be his own cherry-red Tesla Roadster, with its stereo blasting David Bowie’s 1969 classic Space Oddity as it leaves the launch pad. The Falcon-Tesla-Bowie combo will head for a Mars orbit, where it could remain for a billion years, according to Musk … with one small caveat: “If it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”

The Falcon Heavy is scheduled for its big test with a launch from Cape Canaveral in December, from the same launch pad that sent the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon in 1969.

0 to 100 km/h in 1.9 sec

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2017

SpaceX earlier posted an animation detailing the capabilities of the huge new booster, which Musk boasts has twice the thrust of the next largest rocket. The Falcon is a behemoth, with three boosters, each containing nine engines, that delivers five million pounds of thrust. Its payload capacity is massive as well at 119,000 pounds, the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner.

The Falcon Heavy is also designed to be reusable. After the two side boosters detach from the main module, they will fly back to Earth and land upright on a landing pad. The core booster will make a similar landing, with the second stage engines powering the spacecraft on to the red planet.

This month also marks the first real test of SpaceX’s “reusable rocket” concept. The December 9 mission delivering cargo to the International Space Station will use a previously flown Falcon 9 that made its maiden voyage back in June. Designated CRS-13, it’s the 13th mission to the ISS by SpaceX under its $1.6 billion contract.

According to Space Flight Now, the Falcon Heavy still has to pass some major hurdles before Musk’s planned Ziggy Stardust stunt in January, however. Once the rocket is assembled and rolled out to Pad 38A, it will have to undergo a “static fire” test before getting a final “go” for launch. The test will be the first time SpaceX has fired 27 of the Merlin 1D engines at the same time.

If all goes well, Musk’s little red Roadster will soon be sent soaring into the cosmos, forever enshrined in orbit around Mars. Can you hear me, Major Tom?

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