Yes. That’s a real picture of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster passing by earth.
In a moment that was seven years in the making, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket on the planet, successfully took to the skies on Tuesday afternoon.
After Elon Musk himself said he would consider the test flight a success as long as it “cleared the launch pad” before exploding, the platform performed without any issues whatsoever. According to estimates leading up to the launch, experts agreed that the private space organization’s chances at success were likely only around 50/50.
But then, Musk’s companies have made a habit of doing what others have thought to be impossible, infeasible, or in the case of his recent bout of selling flame throwers on the internet, impractical.
Now that it’s proven functional, however, the Falcon Heavy will likely be seen as anything but impractical. With more than twice the power (and payload capacity) of what was previously the most powerful rocket in use on the planet, the Delta IV Heavy, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is capable of delivering as much as 64 tons into low earth orbit. For a frame of reference, that means the Falcon Heavy could deposit an M1 Abrams battle tank in orbit, and still have two tons leftover for ammunition.
And according to Musk, each Falcon Heavy launch will ring in at around one third the cost of the Delta IV Heavy, thanks in large part to the platform’s ability to reuse the three first stage rockets that make up the biggest portion of the Falcon’s power output. In effect, the Falcon Heavy is really three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together – and with 18 successful launches of that platform in the past 12 months alone, SpaceX is quickly building a reputation for reliability as well as low costs – even despite the potential loss of a secret billion dollar payload earlier this year.
While it will take at least six and a half hours after liftoff to know for sure if all phases of the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy were successful, the platform appeared to suffer no issues as it left Earth’s atmosphere and deployed its payload, streaming live footage of Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster as it emerged into open space with the Earth serving as a backdrop.
“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,” Musk tweeted about his plans to launch the car into space last year.
Just in case the SpaceX spacesuit got nervous during launch, the display on the dashboard of the Tesla actually reads, “Don’t Panic!”
You can watch SpaceX’s coverage of the launch exactly as it was recorded below, or if you’d prefer to check on Starman, the spacesuit-clad dummy piloting Musk’s Tesla toward Mars, you can tune in to a live stream of his journey here.
Images courtesy of SpaceX