A roadster in Mars orbit?


"SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk tweeted Friday that his red Tesla Roadster will head for deep space on the maiden flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket as soon as next month, and do it to the tune of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

But it won’t make the trip on battery power.

SpaceX’s Falcon rockets burn hydrocarbons for fuel, consuming a grade of highly refined kerosene called RP-1. The rockets’ Merlin engines burn the RP-1 kerosene mixed with super-cold liquid oxygen.

Musk tweeted Friday night that the Falcon Heavy’s first test flight, scheduled to blast off from Florida’s Space Coast next month, will have his midnight cherry Tesla Roadster on-board.

The Falcon Heavy’s “payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity,” Musk tweeted. “Destination is Mars orbit.”

The repurposed car “will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent,” he wrote.

Musk’s Twitter followers weren’t sure whether to take him seriously."  spaceflight now


OK.  Perhaps this is a joke, or perhaps it is not.  If it is a joke, I like it.  There is too little humor in the world these days.  pl  


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19 Responses to A roadster in Mars orbit?

  1. I checked the calendar and observed that today isn’t April 1st. Therefor, it must be true.

  2. Fred says:

    If only Neil Armstrong had a ride that cool when he was on the moon

  3. ambrit says:

    For fun, I looked up the weight of a Tesla Roadster. 2877 pounds, or roughly one and a half tons. The NASA Mars Odyssey mission spacecraft weighed 1598 pounds, inclusive of internal fuel, payload and instrumentation. The Falcon is supposedly only for Low Earth Orbit insertion missions, so, for Musk to suggest that his Roadster is going to Mars suggests that said Roadster will be just the payload of a larger vehicle. If the Falcon team pulls this off, many will be impressed.
    The Lunar Rovers that went to the moon weighed 463 pounds, and worked well. They had four .25 horsepower drive motors, for a sterling one horsepower of power. The Tesla Roadster is credited with either a 248 horsepower or a 288 horsepower engine. I don’t know what kind of tyres the Mars environment would require, but, that Roadster would make getting around on the Red Planet a breeze. Armed forces parachute heavy loads, such as armoured cars I believe, so, dropping the Roadster to the surface of Mars, even with that planets’ attenuated atmosphere is doable.
    Here’s keeping our fingers crossed!

  4. Musk launched a wheel of cheese into space when he first tested the Dragon 1 capsule. He did that in an ode to Monty Python. Maybe the interplanetary Tesla Roadster is a joke, but it would be one I also appreciate. Who knows what Musk will put aboard his new spacecraft. Whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll enjoy it.

  5. ambrit,
    I just read that NASA fired up the backup thrusters on Voyager 1 after being dormant for 37 years. They had to hack the old assembler coding to change those thrusters from long burst to short burst before testing them. That’s damned near as impressive as the videos I’ve seen of old VW microbuses being fired up after sitting out in a cow pasture for years.

  6. Grimgrin says:

    The car is basically ballast; for the purposes of a test flight it could be anything. You need weight for the test to be worthwhile, and you don’t want it to be expensive weight as new rockets flying for the first time have a tendency to crash and/or explode. Famously, when the first Ariane 5 took off they had an actual satellite payload, and a software bug. $370 million worth of engineering turned to shrapnel in less than a minute. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluster_(spacecraft)
    The roadster to mars is just a demonstration of the fact that Musk is a genius at PR. If the rocket does blow up he’s not lost anyone’s expensive satellite, and he’s got some hype on the project. If it works he’s put one of his cars in orbit around another planet. Which I believe gives him all time bragging rights for “I’ve done the coolest thing”.

  7. Tel says:

    Musk is a grifter, and part of the process of separating people from their money involves a little bit of entertainment and showmanship.

  8. Mark Logan says:

    Confuses the crap out of the Greys, he does.

  9. r whitman says:

    Perhaps the little green men on Mars will race the Tesla against the Mars Rover.

  10. ambrit says:

    There is a basic superiority to simple systems. Rugged generally means long lived. The Voyager 1 has spent 37 years in near absolute zero temperatures. Firing it up now is a feat, and a testimony to its’ designers. I can’t imagine having to wait about forty hours to find out if your command attempt was successful.
    As for the VWs, well, they are supposedly the brainchildren of Dr. Porsche.
    On a related theme, I was paying my electric bill yesterday. The office is adjacent to a main rail line. A train carrying about 120 rusty, beat up Abrams tanks trundled by, headed South. Several of the vehicles had U.S.M.C. painted on the side. It was sad to see.
    Thanks for the commentary to you and the others. Otherwise I’d be reduced to reading only propaganda.

  11. blue peacock says:

    There is a basic superiority to simple systems.

    Well said. The Voyager mission is just amazing. A man-made object is now in interstellar space. How cool is that?
    Complexity typically leads to catastrophic failure. Nassim Taleb writes about that with his ideas on anti-fragility. Of course he focuses much on economic matters.

  12. ambrit,
    I still think those old air-cooled 4 cylinder VW engines are works of art. I had my 71 Super Beetle in Hawaii. I went to the auto craft shop at Fort Shafter one morning to work on the cylinder heads. I had the engine out of the car and was about to take the heads off when my wife called the shop. She was going into labor one month early. I put the engine back together and back in the car in 20 minutes. I got a standing ovation as I drove back home to Red Hill. I arrived home in plenty of time. We went to Tripler and my second son was born a few hours later.
    I didn’t take that engine apart again until my second son was 3 years old and I was in Fort Devens. The number 3 cylinder was almost split in half, but it was still running. I beat the hell out of that car for 13 years and didn’t trade it in until 1986. I really should get another one.

  13. David E. Solomon says:

    Grifter is probably one of the nicer that can honestly be said about Musk.

  14. Bill H says:

    It is a testament to the engineering genius of forty years ago and, yes, I found it awesomely impressive too.

  15. ked says:

    Elon’s vision is highly integrated. Through Space X he seeks to dominate the auto industry… somewhere, anywhere.

  16. Will.2718 says:

    when I shared the Col.s facebook post post on this topic, an engineer friend made this comment:
    My company is working on NTP engine using low enriched uranium (19.75% U235) https://www.bwxt.com/what-we-do/nuclear-thermal-propulsion-ntp
    “BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) is working with NASA in support of the agency’s Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) Project. BWXT is responsible for initiating conceptual designs of an NTP reactor in hopes of powering a future manned mission to Mars.”

  17. philmc says:

    Not to be nitpicky but this is the Falcon Heavy which is basically 3 Falcon 9’s duct tapped together.
    Falcon Heavy will have more lift capability than any other operational rocket, with a payload of 64,000 kilograms (141,000 lb) to low earth orbit and 16,800 kilograms (37,000 lb) to trans-Mars injection.
    SpaceX has another spaceship dubbed the BFR, for big freakin rocket, in the planning stages that is expected to be larger than the Falcon Heavy.

  18. ambrit says:

    You make me wonder if Tesla Space will try a version of the Mars Direct mission profile. It’s very doable with almost off the shelf technology.

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