2nd Update 12/2 6:51PM PT: Elon Musk gave conflicting statements to the Verge while confirming with another reporter that his roadster will be launched to Mars on the Falcon Heavy. Apparently, it IS true, SpaceX has confirmed.
Update: Turns out, the answer is no. Elon Musk “made it up,” said the billionaire in a comment to the Verge. The outlet originally confirmed with Musk that he wanted to launch his personal Roadster to Mars atop the Falcon Heavy during the rocket’s test flight. Bummer.
Confirmation came earlier this week from SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell via Aviation Weekly that the private spaceflight firm will attempt to launch its next rocket, the Falcon Heavy in January. Last night, founder and CEO Elon Musk claimed that SpaceX will put his Tesla Roadster in the payload fairing and launch it toward Martian orbit. Wait, what? It is still unclear if this will actually happen but the Verge did get a confirmation from the eccentric billionaire and a few SpaceX employees have tweeted that he is serious.
Elon Musk made comments earlier this year in Washington, D.C. that they would begin targeting November for the test flight but that slipped to December 29th with a hold-down fire occurring December 15th. Now, the engine firing will take place later in December while the launch will occur in January. “Falcon Heavy to launch next month from Apollo 11 pad at the Cape, Musk tweeted. “Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another.”
When Musk first spoke of launching Falcon Heavy this year he seemed gloomy about the prospects for its success saying “a lot could go wrong.” He explained that simultaneously firing the 27 Merlin engines that the Falcon Heavy requires for its enormous power is pretty complex. The Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together but becomes an entirely different beast when launched.
“The loads change, the air dynamics totally change. You triple the vibration and acoustics. So you break the qualification levels and so much of the hardware,” Musk explained. “It just ended up being way more difficult than we originally thought. We were pretty naive about that.”
“I want to make sure to set expectations accordingly,” Musk said when suggesting his new rocket will explode. “I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it’s not going to cause damage.” He said that scenario would be a “win” for SpaceX. Falcon Heavy will launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, where Apollo 11 launched with the first humans to walk on the moon.
SpaceX had previously announced that two tourists have made down payments to fly aboard the company’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft on a trip around the moon. The mission will be launched atop the Falcon Heavy rocket. Musk said the still-unknown individuals were “brave.”
Musk says that no matter what happens, it will certainly be a good show. He’s been encouraging people to head to Cape Canaveral for the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight. Now, to up the stakes, Musk has decided to launch his personal Tesla to Mars during the risky launch. “Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity,” he tweeted Friday night. “Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”
“Major pucker factor is the only way to describe it,” said Musk. “Real good chance that vehicle doesn’t make it to orbit,”
Featured image credit: Starletters