Elon Musk tweeted over the weekend that the first payload of the Falcon Heavy rocket on its maiden flight would be his own personal Tesla Roadster, color midnight cherry, playing Space Oddity by David Bowie. The announcement led to a back-and-forth with the press, but it has since been confirmed by the company.
The CEO had reportedly stated earlier this year that, as is tradition with other spacecraft of the firm, they would attach “the silliest thing” they could imagine as a payload for its inaugural launch. The launch has been delayed more than 4 years already, and the latest deadline is approaching this January.
Musk, who is known for being an eccentric billionaire as much as for being a restless entrepreneur, is donating his personal Tesla for the stunt and taking advantage of the opportunity to officially get two of his most successful ventures together on a single event. Of course, the move has drawn much criticism.
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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017
The FAA has yet to approve launching a car into Mars’ orbit
While many seem stoked about SpaceX and co. continuing their usual antics, others question whether they will be able to pull out such a feat in the first place, given the regulatory obstacles in the way to carry out a plan of this scale.
First off, the Falcon Heavy itself has to be cleared for takeoff, which is safe to assume has already been done or is well underway due to the impending launch date set for January next year. Another issue, though, is getting approval for the Tesla Roadster.
Musk’s midnight cherry vehicle needs to be safely strapped to the rocket, just like any other payload would need to be. Technically, the Falcon Heavy has the power of three Falcon 9s, which gives it the capacity to carry the equivalent to tens of Tesla Roadsters.
Silliest thing we can imagine! Secret payload of 1st Dragon flight was a giant wheel of cheese. Inspired by a friend & Monty Python.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 31, 2017
People want SpaceX to stop wasting maiden flights
While the FAA has the final word on whether an electric car playing Bowie songs on an endless loop is ok to launch to Mars, SpaceX definitely plans to go through with the plan, according to several statements given to the media by company representatives and Elon Musk himself.
The firm famously launched a wheel of cheese when they first launched the Dragon capsule successfully in 2010. People have criticized the ambitious and, indeed, silly move to send a car to orbit the Red Planet, and have proposed Musk auction it instead and donate the proceeds to students who want to carry out their own projects.