Elon Musk - Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk - Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk is the owner of the two companies Tesla and SpaceX and in February 2018, he elaborately joined the two. SpaceX have developed a rocket called The Falcon Heavy, and during the test flight, Elon decided to launch his own personal Tesla Roadster as the test load, complete with a human scale mannequin wearing a space suit named Starman after the David Bowie hit song. The speakers, despite being able to omit sound in space, have Bowie's Space Oddity on loop, there is a copy of Douglas Adams' A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, referenced with a towel and a sign reading Don't Panic! amongst other objects on board.

Traditionally, the test load for rocket launches comprises of concrete or steel blocks so that engineers can test that a rocket can bear the weight needed for launching satellites or objects that are required in space. In March 2017, Musk stated that he would launch the silliest thing we can imagine, later announcing that he would launch his own personal roadster which required confirmation due to a skeptical audience. As a result, the Tesla Roadster became the first consumer car sent into space.

The Falcon Heavy test flight took place on the 6th January 2018 at 20:45 UTC. The mission was a success, which concluded that the Falcon Heavy was the most powerful rocket in operation and can lift twice the capacity of the NASA space shuttle launch system. Musk had downplayed the expectations of success in a conference, stating that There's a real good chance the vehicle won't make it to orbit ... I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest. It was successfully launched with enough velocity to enter an orbit around the sun, crossing the orbit of Mars while sending a video back to earth during the early stages of the flight, becoming the second most watched livestream on YouTube.

The Falcon Heavy was launched in a reusable configuration which was designed to recover the central core and the side boosters of the rocket. The side boosters had been previously used on a CRS-9 mission in July 2016 and the Thaicom 8 Launch in May earlier that year.

Something that shocked engineers was the returning of the side boosters to landing zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral. Video footage of the landing not only shows this happening successfully, but happening with pinpoint synchronisation. While this was the intention, due to complex engineering, mathematics and natural factors, seldom is it possible to make it so accurate. What wasn't quite as successful was the recovery of the landing of the central core which was due to take place on an autonomous spaceport drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster landed in the water about 100m from the ship, and was not successfully recovered. Aside from the landing of the centre core, every other objective was a success.

The purpose of launching the Tesla Roadster as a payload was to demonstrate that Falcon Heavy was capable of sending a heavy payload as far as the orbit of Mars. Some people consider the Tesla Roadster to be space debris, criticising Musk's decision to send his own car into space, while others see it as a clever piece of advertising or even call it art. While the video is no longer streaming, you can track the location of the Tesla Roadster using the website whereisroadster.com. It is not expected to pass near the Earth until 2091.

Whether or not you consider the placing of Musk's Tesla Roadster in space as a form of vandalism, advertising, or art, this huge step in space technology proves that we are venturing further into the depths of the universe and becoming more confident with complex technology. The car will make a relatively random orbit, pushed further or closer from it's original trajectory by the gravity of passing planets, until it is either recovered or enters the atmosphere of a planet and burns up. If it happens to be encountered by other life before then, there is a message on the vehicle's circuit board reading made by humans to inform extra-terrestrial life of the origins of the strange satellite.