Elon Musk sends his car into space. Here's his other far-out projects

07 February 2018 - 10:51 By AFP Relaxnews
'Starman' in his red Tesla roadster ready to be launched into space.
'Starman' in his red Tesla roadster ready to be launched into space.
Image: Elon Musk/Instagram

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk on Tuesday sent his own Tesla roadster into space aboard the world's most powerful rocket in operation, the Falcon Heavy - to the tune of David Bowie's Life on Mars.

'Piloted' by a Stig-lookalike dummy dubbed 'Starman', the circuit board of the electric car is stamped with a helpful message for any aliens who may encounter it, it reads: "Made on Earth by humans". 

Musk has since been keeping the world abreast of the roadster's progress via social media updates:

Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster automobile floated through space after it was carried there by SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.

Printed on the circuit board of a car in deep space

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

This is by no means the first far-out space project that the South African-born entrepreneur has cooked up in recent years. Here are some others:

REUSABLE ROCKETS

To bring down the cost of spaceflight and boost efficiency, a key goal for Musk is to make rockets as reusable as commercial airplanes - eliminating the current industry practice of tossing the multi-million dollar components after each launch. 

After some early crashes and near-misses that prompted SpaceX to showcase them in a blooper reel, the company has now perfected the art of firing the booster's engines, maneuvering the grid fins and neatly landing the tall portion of the rockets upright on solid ground and on ocean platforms.

WATCH | SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket soars in debut test launch

The world's most powerful rocket, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, roared into space through clear blue skies in its debut test flight on Tuesday 7 February 2018. REUTERS

Musk is not the only one to have done it - competitor Blue Origin, a rocket company run by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, has also managed to land its own rockets in a similar fashion.

But no one has done it so many times. SpaceX has landed 21 of its Falcon 9 boosters so far.

COLONIZING MARS

Musk wants to make humans an "interplanetary species" by establishing a colony of people living on the Mars. 

Riding on reusable rockets and spaceships - still under development - people could travel 100 at a time to the Red Planet. 

The idea is to bring up to a million people to Mars in the next century. Test flights could start in the next decade.

The cost to develop the rocket and spacecraft is estimated at $10-bllion.

'BFR'

SpaceX is calling the rocket that would carry all these people to Mars "BFR," which Musk has jokingly - or not - referred to as code for "Big Fucking Rocket."

According to Spacenews.com, its formal name is now understood to be "Big Falcon Rocket."

The idea is to have one booster and ship that replaces three of SpaceX's signature projects: the Falcon Heavy which aims to be the world's most powerful rocket for now, and may one day ferry supplies to Mars; the versatile Falcon 9 rocket, which can land seamlessly back on Earth post-launch; and the Dragon cargo ship which supplies the International Space Station.

The BFR is designed to stand 106 meters tall, with 10.8 million pounds of thrust, far more than the Saturn V moon rocket at 7.9 million pounds of thrust. 

The first tests could come as early 2019, with orbital tests in 2020.

The first cargo shipments could make it to Mars in 2022, SpaceX has said.

ROCKETS ON EARTH

New York to Shanghai via rocket in 39 minutes? It's all part of Musk's vision for rocket travel on Earth.

The BFR will be the vehicle, Musk has vowed, to fly to most places on Earth in under 30 minutes and anywhere in under an hour.

The cost per seat would be about the same as an airplane economy fare, he said.

CARGO AND CREW TO SPACE

It seems like old news now, but SpaceX made history in 2010 by becoming the first private company to send its own spaceship to orbit and recover it.

In 2012, SpaceX broke barriers again, sending its Dragon cargo ship to the orbiting International Space Station.

That same year, SpaceX began regular cargo missions to supply the astronauts living in space with its gumdrop-shaped Dragon cargo ship, launched atop the Falcon 9 rocket, under a $1.6-billion contract with NASA.

Orbital ATK also sends its unmanned Cygnus cargo carrier to the ISS under a $1.9 billion deal with NASA. 

SpaceX's Dragon is the only ship that can be returned to Earth intact. The Cygnus burns up on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

SpaceX is developing a crew Dragon vehicle that will be able to transport several astronauts at a time to the space lab. Its first manned flight could come later this year.

Additional reporting by staff reporter.


X