There’s a red car, a mannequin, a Hot Wheels replica, and a disc full of earthling information headed to Mars right now. Read on to learn more about it!
Earlier this week, Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX successfully launched a rocket called the Falcon Heavy from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA. This was meant to enter Mars’ orbit.
What’s so special about the Falcon Heavy? The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket constructed to date. It has 27 engines and three boosters the thrust or power of which equals 18 Boeing 747 jetliners! It roared with a combined 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Can you imagine how loud that would be?
The more power a rocket has the further it can go and the more payload it can carry. Payload is cargo or people – basically what the rocket company gets ‘paid’ to ‘load’. So the Falcon Heavy can launch heavier satellites into earth’s orbit, for example or something close to 100 people!
Reusable rockets! Cooler still is that just three minutes after its launch, two of its boosters landed safely back at the launch site. This means they can be used again and again in the future, unlike rockets of the past. This is a very big deal! Usually launches like this cost at least $500 million because nothing has been reusable. This one cost $90 million.
Only one hiccup: The last booster had one more very important task to complete – it was meant to land on a drone ship out in the Atlantic Ocean, but missed the ship by 300 feet.
What was the Falcon Heavy’s payload?
Elon Musk has another company called Tesla Inc. that makes electric cars. The payload zooming towards Mars is Elon Musk’s privately owned cherry red Tesla Roadster. Yes, there’s a car flying in outer space right now – in fact, a red car headed to the red planet.
Who is in the driver’s seat you ask? A mannequin named “Starman”, after a very popular song by the late music legend David Bowie.
How long will it take Starman to get to Mars? Due to the Earth and Mars’ constant orbits around the Sun, it’s hard to measure the exact distance. Scientists average it to be 225 million kilometers, and in the past, it has taken anywhere between 128 to 333 days to reach Mars.
However, the Falcon Heavy’s final rocket burst was stronger than intended and so the Roadster’s trajectory is now aimed at an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter’s orbits. Oops! Let’s see where it goes!
Don’t worry, Starman is not travelling alone. He is accompanied by a small Hot Wheels replica of the car and of himself, along with a plaque of the 6,000 SpaceX employees. Of course he also has a disc that holds vast amounts of Earthling knowledge— just incase he meets any other space travellers on his grand adventure!
Here’s a SpaceX animation of the rocket launch. Enjoy!
Written by: Tanika Thacker. Tanika is a writer by day and a foodie by night. She lives in San Francisco and nothing makes her happier than ice-cream on a cold, rainy afternoon. You can follow her meanderings on @tanikathacker and @boozefoodlatitude