CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, will be launching his Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time next month from the Apollo 11 launchpad. And its payload will include a Tesla Roadster – Musk's own midnight cherry red Roadster. The announcement, however, was made amid some confusion and a bit of back-and-forth.
Musk tweeted that he plans to launch the first-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket next month from the Cape Canaveral facility that was used to launch Apollo 11 – which landed the first two humans on the Moon. Musk wants to make his first shot at Mars special, and the only thing that he has revealed so far about the payload is that it will be a Tesla Roadster.
The Falcon Heavy is set to launch in early 2018 and will be, according to SpaceX, the world's most powerful rocket by a factor of two. The rocket will be able to lift 54 tonnes into orbit, which they claim is twice the payload of the next closest competitor at one-third the cost.
Musk confirmed the announcement on Twitter, saying, "Falcon Heavy to launch next month from Apollo 11 pad at the Cape. Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another."
He followed it up by saying that the payload will be a Roadster.
"Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent."
Initially, there was a bit of confusion after The Verge reported that Musk emailed the tech news website claiming the Falcon Heavy's first payload is going to be a car. Later, however, the Tesla and SpaceX boss sent them a direct message on Twitter in response to their coverage of the story, saying he had made up the whole Roadster thing. Then, by Saturday evening, 2 December, the Verge apparently received word from their sources saying that the launch idea was, in fact, real and that there will be a Roadster inside the Falcon Heavy.
IB Times UK could not independently verify these claims.
Also, the car will be playing "Space Oddity" by David Bowie as it is being launched into space, said Musk. The song, released in 1969 – the year humans set foot on the Moon, speaks of a brave space traveller – Major Tom – who sets out to explore the unknown, but gets lost in space as his spacecraft's circuits die and communications with Earth are severed.
"I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future," tweeted Musk in response to a user asking him why he wants to launch his car into space.
The Tesla Roadster was the first car built by Musk. Launched in 2008, it was a sports car that was produced till 2012. The car was the first road-legal, all-electric car that ran on lithium-ion batteries. It was also the first car powered only by batteries to have a range of over 300 km on a single charge.
The first-gen Roadster was based on a Lotus Elise and had a similar silhouette. However, according to Tesla, the electric car that finally made it to production was a completely reworked Elise, to the point where only the windscreen and dashboard were carried over from the original sports car.
Meanwhile, the next-gen Roadster will be launched in 2020. At the time of launch, the all-electric sports car is expected to be the fastest road-legal production car in the world. It will go from 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds and on to a top speed of over 250 mph. The car is expected to retail at around $200,000 (~£150,000).
As for SpaceX's mega-rocket, the Falcon Heavy can be explained as being similar to three Falcon 9 rockets – SpaceX's existing launch vehicles – strapped together and blasted off into space at once. Also, the company plans on recovering all three rockets so that they can be used again, lowering the cost of future missions.