Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the world’s most powerful rocket Falcon Heavy, on Tuesday from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. The rocket is the first step in Musk’s ambitious dream to send humans to Mars and create a colony on the planet. The SpaceX and Tesla boss has long spoken of the need for humans to move beyond planet Earth, which he says will be necessary for survival.
The Falcon Heavy rocket made its successful launch at 3:45 pm Eastern time (2:15 a.m. IST on Wednesday) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and SpaceX offered a live coverage of the whole process. As the rocket took off for outer space, Falcon Heavy’s three boosters attached to the engine attempted to land at three different sites back on Earth. While two of the recycled boosters had a successful landing, the third booster has crashed into the Atlantic. Elon Musk tweeted pictures of the two side boosters landing successfully.
The 23-story-tall jumbo rocket is carrying a red sports car Tesla Roadster automobile aiming for an endless road trip past Mars. At the convertible’s wheel is SpaceX’s “Starman,” a dummy in a white-and-black-trimmed spacesuit, and on the soundtrack is another nod to the late David Bowie: his 1969, pre-Apollo 11 song Space Oddity, featuring the memorable line “Ground Control to Major Tom.”
SpaceX is hoping for live shots of the car from on-board cameras, once the protective enclosure comes off and the car sails off fully exposed. The Roadster is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars and Musk has shared images of the car in Earth’s orbit on his Twitter account.
Falcon Heavy’s first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.
SpaceX has decided against flying passengers on the Heavy, Musk told reporters Monday, and instead will accelerate development of an even bigger rocket to accommodate deep-space crews. His ultimate goal is to establish a city on Mars.
(With inputs from agencies)