The Roadster That Went to Mars

If the blog here hasn’t made it painfully clear… Myself and the other Procure Analysts are massive geeks. We’ve talked about physics, electricity, history, and common HVAC stuff. It’s Monday and we’re doing a little fan-post about a giant rocket launching a car to Mars because it’s awesome and we’re pretty sure you’ll at least chuckle over the absurdity at the end.

Landing Rockets

Space X has been in the news this last year for launching, then landing rockets. Up until recently, basically everything that we send to space is going on a one-way, one-use trip. If you launch a satellite, you pay perhaps $300 Million for the launch alone, let alone the actual cost of the satellite. The rocket goes up, the satellite goes up, then at some point the rocket either burns up on re-entry or blows up when it crashes into the sea at mach 3.

On the other hand, if you launch a satellite with Space X, some very different things happen. The rocket still goes up, your payload still goes to space, and then the rocket literally turns around, cancels out all it’s velocity to return to the space port, flips again to stand upright, and actually lands in one piece. They do this with the Falcon 9 rocket, which has been years in development. It used to be that they would try to land and just blow up the rocket on the landing pad, but it’s become routine to put 80 tons of rocket into space, turn around and park it not far from where it left.

This is completely amazing. There is math, physics, and engineering involved to do this. It’s really hard, which is why no one else has done it yet. Even the space shuttle’s fuel tanks and boosters were often just left in the ocean because recovery is hard. This gets even better.

A Really Big Rocket

The Falcon 9 can put around 50,000 pounds of material into Earth Orbit for about $62 Million Dollars. This is perfect weather satellites, crew capsules, and sending supplies to the International Space Station. This is even enough capacity to feasibly launch some hardware out into deeper space. There are however times when you just need more.

Space X brought us more with the Falcon Heavy. It is essentially 3 Falcon 9’s joined together. All 3 go up and in theory, all three land around the same time. The figures here are a little crazier. The Heavy can loft a massive 140,000 Pounds into orbit. In principal, it could even send about 8,000 Pounds all the way to Pluto.

This is a new rocket however, so it needed a test flight. We just got that test flight last Tuesday. We’ve lobbied the boss since then to let us post the video because it’s amazing. They launched a Falcon Heavy towards Mars, and put a Tesla Roadster on top of it as the payload, with cameras so we could see the car with a test-dummy ‘driving’ in the depths of space.

Watch the launch below. Skip to 22 Minutes in for the launch. There’s actual video, straight from the boosters doing their flip and land maneuver, which is astounding at 24 minutes, and Starman driving to mars at 25:40. Just stick around for the whole show after launch.


There is actually a practical application to this too. That Tesla is now a flying Time Capsule. It’s orbit will bring it near Earth in 2030 if we want to try and bring it back. If not, Space will largely preserve it, though the paint and plastics may decay from the radiation.

Happy Monday Everyone.

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