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Falcon Heavy: Extraordinary!

The Tau Zero Foundation and Centauri Dreams congratulates team Space Exploration Technologies, for the successful, historic, pioneering test flight of the Falcon Heavy.

Ad Astra Incrementis indeed!

From all of us,

Jeff Greason
Marc Millis
Rhonda Stevenson
Andrew Aldrin
Paul Gilster
Bill Tauskey
Rod Pyle


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alex Tolley February 6, 2018, 18:11

    The simultaneous landing of the 2 boosters and the images of the Tesla Roadster in space were surreal. At this point, it seems that the first stage core was lost, but I hope they get enough data to understand what happened.

    I trust any snide comments about a billionaire’s “hobby rocket” are finally done with. This was a spectacular success and makes Nasa’s efforts with the cancelled Aries 1 and Aries 5 and still unready SLS look lacklustre and uninspiring.

    In a little over one and a half decades, SpaceX has gone from founding to launching the largest current rocket, a vehicle 2nd only to the iconic Saturn 5. A remarkable achievement.

    • Antonio February 7, 2018, 6:29

      “a vehicle 2nd only to the iconic Saturn 5”

      Actually, it’s the 4th: Saturn V -> Energia -> N1 -> FH.

      • Alex Tolley February 7, 2018, 14:22

        Unfortunately, I was being a bit parochial there. However, I would not count the N-1 as it was never successfully launched. If the Sea Dragon had ever been built and successfully launched, it would have dwarfed even the Saturn 5.

        But perhaps rather than bragging rights on size, it is the reusability of the Falcon rockets that is SpaceX’s main achievement which drives down costs and makes space development that much more economic.

    • Douglas Loss February 7, 2018, 9:47

      The core was definitely lost. Only one of the three engines needed to land restarted successfully. The core impacted about 100 meters (as I recall) from the barge, at about 300 mph. The resulting shrapnel damaged two of the engines on the drone barge. Still, a remarkable “shakedown” mission for a remarkable system!

  • Carl Keller February 6, 2018, 21:00
  • James M Essig February 6, 2018, 22:07

    SpaceX rocks and Elon Musk is the Man! Musk started out with a simple mindset that he just wanted to build rockets. The commercials are stepping up to the plate were NASA has been way too lackluster. NASA can be great again but perhaps they will need to take lessons from SpaceX.

  • David February 6, 2018, 23:31

    I was thinking Breakthrough starshot will want spacex to do the launch of the nanosails . They can do the maneuvers to get them to the right spot for the laser.

    • ljk February 7, 2018, 12:05

      They also better use them for PR.

      • David February 7, 2018, 21:35

        I have a question . Musk said its heading for an orbit in the asteroid belt. Some of the reporting made it sound like it was there all ready. But my question . Where did he put the car. It looks outside.

        • Brett Bellmore February 8, 2018, 7:32

          There’s an aerodynamic fairing around the payload while going up through the atmosphere, but they jettison it as soon as they clear the atmosphere to save weight. At that point the car was sitting out in the open on the end of a rocket.

  • J. Jason Wentworth February 7, 2018, 3:57

    Thank you for posting that picture, Carl! Watching the live video made me shiver for two reasons:

    [1] The early views, looking past Starman and the Tesla Roadster (with the luminous blue Atlantic, with just a few speckles of cloud below) looked like a Chesley Bonestell painting from Willy Ley’s 1964 book “Beyond the Solar System” (see: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/57440551@N03/24070579816/ [he predicted that that Alpha Centauri expedition would depart Circa 2014…]), and:

    [2] The lighting provided by the Sun in your posted picture (which, of course, was also evident in the video itself), particularly on Starman’s suit and the car, has that same eerie, yet beautiful “daytime in the eternal night of space” quality that Ed Valigursky’s paintings in the 1964 TIME LIFE series book “Man and Space” by Arthur C. Clarke (see: http://projectswordtoys.blogspot.com/2010/03/man-and-space-around-world-french.html and http://www.google.com/search?q=Ed+Valigursky+paintings+in+“Man+and+Space”&sa=X&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ved=0ahUKEwiHiOjkp5PZAhVpxlQKHWRQAysQsAQIJg&biw=1440&bih=794 ) have, and:

    Interestingly, in the post-launch conference Elon Musk emphasized that the Falcon Heavy can “send payloads to Pluto–and beyond, without stops” (going from memory; I may not have gotten the exact wording right, but that was what he said)…I wonder if he’s been looking forward toward providing launch support for Breakthrough Starshot, NASA’s recently announced 2069 (possibly *solar* sail-powered) starprobe, or perhaps something else (probes to ‘Oumuamua have been suggested and even studied)?

  • Frank Smith February 7, 2018, 9:27

    Congrats to Space-X! It seems like the US Space program has been in doldrums for decades. Looks like the private sector is really jump-starting progress. I watched a replay of the Falcon Heavy an it looked flawless. Maybe I’ll actually live long enough to see men on the Moon again — or farther.

  • James Stilwell February 7, 2018, 10:06

    from the Verge…

    The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels…whose idea was that?

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 13:10

      Some guy named Elon Musk. He also put in a copy of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the phrase DON’T PANIC is on the Tesla’s dashboard.

  • ljk February 7, 2018, 11:03

    For those who might see Elon Musk’s launching of red sports car into space as a missed opportunity for a good science mission, consider the following:

    1. It is Musk’s rocket and money, not your tax dollars.

    2. Musk was rightly concerned that the first launch of this powerful rocket could have failed, so why risk a scientifically valuable satellite in the process?

    3. The publicity and excitement of sending a red convertible into deep space is already doing more to get the public thinking and excited about space exploration than a lot of other space events that have happened in recent years. Sad, but true. Why do you think the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises get so much money for displays of endless fictional space missions?

    FYI: NASA used to put water as ballast on the early Saturn rocket tests, not terribly exciting or inventive.

    4. There is now an example of an early 21st Century automobile preserved in space for ages along with a real spacesuit from the era, which future historians will definitely appreciate – along with a copies of several landmark science fiction novels.

    5. It also shows we are finally taking steps to make space utilization commercial and routine, which is vital if space buffs ever want to see permanent space colonies and interstellar probes. NASA cannot afford to be this cavalier, which is a double-edge sword in its efforts to partake in the “conquest” of space. I do not want to be right about this, but I think we are seeing a remake of the era when IBM went from the uncontested computer giant to just another member in the crowd. Legendary and respected, to be sure, but no longer the king – and that may be a good thing for the reasons I just stated above.

    6. It’s just really, really cool. Especially for those of us who remember or have seen the opening credits to the 1981 animated science fiction film Heavy Metal. :^)


    • David February 7, 2018, 21:38

      I consider it a work of art as well. Call it fine or decorative…its art.

    • Jim Baerg February 9, 2018, 21:58

      The only thing missing from the payload is a teapot marked ‘property of Bertrand Russel’. ;^)

  • ljk February 7, 2018, 12:14
    • ljk February 7, 2018, 12:23

      While reading Twitter comments from astronomers asking what are the odds of the Tesla Roadster hitting something in space, this size comparison was posted:

      “At a scale of 1AU=1/4mi, the Main Belt is a 2-mi diam. donut w/ a 1-mi hole. Grind up a half-inch sugar cube into 10^6 pieces, each smaller than superfine sugar. These are the asteroids. Spread throughout the belt, they’d be about 8-ft apart at this scale.”


  • DJ Kaplan February 7, 2018, 13:23

    I’m glad they weren’t actually planning to go to Mars this time. They overshot the goal and Elon’s beloved car will orbit among nameless asteroids.

    Exciting launch and all that, but it was a little too heavy on hype, gee-whiz sensationalism and publicity for me. I wouldn’t want Musk to be in charge of any science.

    • Ljk February 7, 2018, 17:18

      Without the gee whiz first you aren’t going to get the space science.

  • ljk February 7, 2018, 13:29

    Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster leaves Earth with ‘easter eggs’


    To quote:

    The Roadster was not modified, nor apparently tested, to guarantee its survival on its trip into deep space.

    “We did not really test any of those materials for space. It just has the same seats that a normal car has. It is just literally a normal car — in space. And I just kind of like the absurdity of that,” said Musk.

    And as if a car in space was not enough of a spectacle, the Roadster carried with it a few subtle and not-so-subtle “easter eggs.”

    Secured inside the Roadster is an Arch (pronounced “Ark”), a laser optical quartz storage device designed to survive the harsh environment of space. The disc was provided by the Arch Mission Foundation, whose stated goal is to “preserve and disseminate humanity’s most important information across time and space, for the benefit of future generations.”

    “On the Arch that is being launched [on Falcon Heavy], the Foundation has stored Isaac Asimov’s classic sci-fi series ‘The Foundation Trilogy,’ which was the original inspiration for the Arch Mission,” said Lyons.

    And then there is Hot Wheels Roadster on the dash of the real Roadster.

    “On the dashboard, there’s a tiny Roadster with a tiny spaceman,” said Musk. “Hot Wheels made a Hot Wheels Roadster and a friend of mine suggested why don’t you put that Hot Wheels Roadster with a tiny spaceman on it in the car, too.”

    “It’s kind of silly and fun, but silly and fun things are important,” he said. “I think the imagery of it is something that is going to get people excited around the world.”

    It might also attract the attention of whoever encounters the car in millions, if not billions of years from now, postulated Musk.

    “Maybe it’ll be discovered by some future alien race thinking, ‘What the heck were these guys doing? Did they worship this car?'” quipped Musk. “‘Why do they have a little car in the car?’ That will really confuse them.”

  • ljk February 7, 2018, 13:34

    The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels

    A single man who successfully plans the long-term future of human civilization through the course of his own singular vision surely isn’t a metaphor for anything here.

    By Chaim Gartenberg@cgartenberg Feb 6, 2018, 4:31pm EST

    SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

    An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

    To quote:


  • DJ Kaplan February 7, 2018, 13:43

    Elon’s car was not sterilized, and was not guarded against entering Martian atmosphere.
    “NASA goes to great lengths sterilizing spacecraft designed to land on Mars, in order to make sure there’s no chance of Earthly microbes contaminating the surface. Such a contamination could harm existing life and muddle scientific efforts to search for said life. This concern might only last until humans arrive, but in the meantime, planetary protection is such a huge concern, it actually hinders NASA’s ability to search for life! There are endless debates on whether current rovers like Curiosity, or future rovers like Mars 2020, should be allowed to investigate spots where briny water may (or may not) ooze onto the surface.”

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 16:20

      So how close will the Tesla ever get to Mars and when?

      Amazing we can actually worry about a RED SPORTS CAR hitting the planet Mars, ay?

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 17:01

      The following quote comes from the following article from the Motortrend car magazine:


      In the broader regulatory scope, the international Outer Space Treaty only covers planetary protection, designed to prevent other planets from being contaminated with any sort of life from Earth (such as hardy microbes that could hitch a ride on a spacecraft).

      Were the Roadster to land on Mars or if it were put in orbit of the planet where it could eventually be pulled down by gravity, SpaceX would be in violation. To get around that, the Roadster will be sent out to the general distance from the sun where Mars orbits and left to drift, never coming close enough to the planet to risk crash landing. Otherwise, legal experts mostly agree there isn’t really any law preventing SpaceX from sending the Roadster into space.

  • ljk February 7, 2018, 13:52

    Arch Mission Foundation Announces Our Payload On SpaceX Falcon Heavy

    By Nova Spivack


    To quote:

    Our goal at the Arch Mission Foundation™ is to permanently archive human knowledge for thousands to billions of years. We exist to preserve and disseminate humanity’s knowledge across time and space, for the benefit of future generations.

    To accomplish this we have begun building special Arch™ libraries (pronounced: “Arks”). Our first Arch libraries are data crystals that last billions of years. We plan to use many media types over time however — whatever material is the best available for the goal.

    We are very happy to announce that our first Arch library, containing the Isaac Asimov Foundation Trilogy, was carried as payload on today’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, enroute to permanent orbit around the Sun.

    The Arch library that was included on the Falcon Heavy today was created using a new technology, 5D optical storage in quartz, developed by our advisor Dr. Peter Kazansky and his team, at the University of Southampton, Optoelectronics Research Centre.

    This Arch library will orbit the Sun for at least millions of years alongside Elon’s Tesla Roadster. The Roadster will likely be the oddest object in the solar system, and thus is the perfect place to put an Arch library so that it can be noticed and retrieved in the distant future.

    We are so honored that Elon is the recipient of the first 2 Arch libraries ever made. If anyone deserves them, it’s him. Arch1.1 now resides in Elon’s personal library, while Arch 1.2 is enroute with SpaceX to permanent Solar orbit.

    Arch 1.1 and 1.2 are the first in a series of 5, and are two of the longest-lasting storage objects ever created by humans. They are immensely valuable artifacts; the product of decades of work to invent a new form of storage capable of serving the needs of the growth of big data.

    Asimov’s Foundation Series was the inspiration for the Arch Mission Foundation, many years ago when we first conceived of this project. It is a metaphor for what we hope this can become, and it is the perfect cornerstone as our mission begins.

    If you are not familiar, Asimov’s Foundation Series is important for its symbolism. The series’ protagonist Hari Seldon endeavors to preserve and expand upon all human culture and knowledge through a 30,000 year period of turmoil. We felt this was a very fitting first payload to include in the Arch.

    What’s Next?

    In subsequent Arch Mission updates we’ll add more curated information in more locations around the solar system, and on Earth as well, and using more forms of next-generation long-term storage media as well.

    This will backup our civilization for eternity in a manner that will make it impossible to ever be lost or not rediscovered, and that will also make it impossible for anyone in the future who does find it to hoard the knowledge — the Arch libraries will be in too many locations for anyone to control access to them.

    You can read all about our plans on our website, http://www.archmission.com, but a brief summary is provided here.

    The Solar Library™ will orbit the Sun for billions of years. We will continue to add to it over time with additional Arch libraries. Think of it as a ring of knowledge around the sun. This is only the first step of an epic human project to curate, encode, and distribute our data across the Solar system, and beyond.

    We are developing a special Arch library that will be delivered to the surface of the Moon by 2020. This Arch will start the Lunar Library™, a collection of the most important documents, photos, videos and data of our species and will last for as long as the Moon itself.

    We are also designing an Arch library to land on Mars. The Mars Library™ will be designed to supply a future human settlement on Mars with a vast collection of important knowledge from Earth — including perhaps a copy of a large portion of the Internet.

    The Mars Library will seed a backup of Earth on Mars, in the event that the connection between Mars and Earth is ever lost in the future. It will also provide colonists on Mars with a massive data set with which to seed a local Internet and Web on Mars.

    By eventually connecting the Arch Libraries, and the Arch storage devices they contain, through a decentralized read-write data sharing network, that spans the Solar system, we can begin to grow and share a collective decentralized library of everything humanity learns, on every planet in our solar system, and even beyond, as we spread.

    This truly can evolve into Asimov’s vision of an Encyclopedia Galactica someday — an encyclopedia containing all the knowledge accumulated by a galaxy-spanning civilization.

  • Gary Wilson February 7, 2018, 13:55

    An amazing feat. It reminded me of watching the Saturn V’s go up so long ago. It’s very sad to think how much time was wasted on the Space Shuttle system. It completely failed in its goal to be an inexpensive way into orbit at a high frequency and was much too dangerous to boot. NASA has floundered around in its manned exploration projects for decades now and nobody else took the lead. We’ve waited a long time for a man like Elon Musk to come to the fore. It has finally happened and we should be able to now continue manned exploration of the solar system.

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 11:41

      While the Space Shuttle did accomplish a lot in terms of getting large payloads into Earth orbit, it hardly evoked the romanticism of space exploration like its manned predecessors did, especially Apollo.

      NASA was also at fault for claiming early on that the Space Shuttle would not only reduce launch costs but that it could be sent up every *two weeks*. The Space Shuttle was also designed with lofting large military payloads in mind. They even had plans to launch secret military missions from the US West Coast and had an entire launch facility set up for such plans.

      Instead we ended up with each Shuttle mission costing $500 million on average no matter what was being carried onboard. Often the payloads were fresh supplies for the ISS. Now such “missions” are done robotically because there is no longer another option.

      They were also incredibly foolish to assume that the Space Shuttle would take over for nearly all of their disposable rocket fleet. When Challenger was destroyed, that illusion was destroyed along with it.

      I hope NASA knows how to reinvent itself in this new world. I once worked for a computer company that in its heyday was second only to IBM. Then along came the PC revolution while they continued to keep selling mainframes and not advertising, because back in the day they did not have to aggressively sell themselves to the public or even industry. By the time they belatedly started to get with the times, it was too late. This year will be the twentieth anniversary that this once computer giant was absorbed by another computer company and essentially disappeared.

      I do not want to see this happen to NASA. Yes, Trump has said it is okay to send humans back to the Moon, but so far the required money hasn’t appeared and NASA still doesn’t have an actual Administrator over one year later since the last one left! This is why when I hear uninformed people say that NASA is secretly working on a warp drive project, I laugh ruefully.

      Will the space community step up and follow Musk’s example? Because hoping for the good ol’ days while not educating and enticing the public and politicians about all the wonders and benefits of space continues to not work in terms of our spreading out into the Sol system and beyond.

  • Robert February 7, 2018, 15:06

    Now Musk is on the hook to develop a complete space infrastructure capable of retrieving his Roadster. :)

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 11:56

      I know you are being humorous, but why retrieve his car? Leave it out there for future generations, be they human or Artilects or ETI, to recover it. They will appreciate it far more, especially the two classic science fiction works preserved aboard.

      Quoting Musk from here:

      Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster leaves Earth with ‘easter eggs’


      “Maybe it’ll be discovered by some future alien race thinking, ‘What the heck were these guys doing? Did they worship this car?’” quipped Musk. “‘Why do they have a little car in the car?’ That will really confuse them.”

      A company is also testing long-term preservation of information in deep space aboard the Tesla, in case anyone thinks there is no science being conducted with this mission:


      • Robert February 9, 2018, 13:50

        When a society is rich in a certain new capability it can afford to then clean up the mess it created to get to that point- like fixing the atmosphere after a century of using fossil fuels. So we should clean up our junk in space. Of course some things will be made into museums like the Apollo 11 landing site which BTW, if it hasn’t already been officially designated a historic site, should be next year by the fiftieth anniversary.

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 17:50

      All that being said, I think a mission (using CubeSats?) to find and examine the Tesla Roadster every so many years or decades to see how it is doing in interplanetary space would be of great value. How often do “ordinary” machines and materials get sent into the Final Frontier, especially for an indefinite period of time.

      Plus the Tesla will be dipping into the Main Planetoid Belt as it circles Sol, which should provide useful and somewhat unique data on how “ordinary” (non space-rated) materials handle being in deep space and in close proximity to numerous space rocks.

      There is a lot more space science and engineering that can be done with Musk’s car than I think people realize.

  • Andrei February 7, 2018, 17:42

    Very good work! :)

  • Another David February 7, 2018, 23:36

    Maybe Elon Musk will turn out to be the
    D.D. Harriman of our time line.

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 12:16

      More than once I have read on the Interverse how Musk should have included a copy of Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon among the other science fiction works aboard his Tesla Roadster:


      There are similarities between this novel and the landmark 1950 science fiction film Destination Moon, where private industry does what the government is unwilling to, namely send a manned spacecraft to land upon and explore Earth’s natural satellite. That aspect is just as remarkable as all of its efforts to be technologically and scientifically accurate.



      • Andrei February 15, 2018, 17:48

        Sadly he is a Mars (M)elon Musk. :P

  • ljk February 8, 2018, 13:11

    8 February 2018

    by The Great Dissonance

    What the Starman’s Crazy Journey Stands for

    by Ciro Borriello


  • ljk February 8, 2018, 15:31

    SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket

    by Jackie Wattles @jackiewattles

    February 7, 2018: 3:21 AM ET


    To quote:

    “He announced last year he planned to put his car on the inaugural Falcon Heavy flight. When asked on Twitter why he wanted to throw away a $100,000 vehicle, he replied, “I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.”

    Musk is not the only one who has had this idea:


  • ljk February 8, 2018, 16:28

    Like a Rocket: The Story Behind SpaceX’s Plan to Launch a Tesla Roadster Into Space

    Scott Evans Words – February 6, 2018


    To quote:

    Late in the summer of 2017, the delayed launch of the first Falcon Heavy rocket was finally beginning to take shape, and it was time to talk payload. As Musk would later tweet, payloads on test flights are generally cheap, heavy objects to simulate a real payload without the risk of losing a billion-dollar satellite if the test went wrong, which isn’t uncommon. The engineers tasked with selecting and preparing a payload were aware of the wheel of cheese and Musk’s expressed desire to do something silly, so they brainstormed various unexpected payloads. One suggestion: a car. Practical heads prevailed, and the goofy suggestions were shot down in favor of the standard heavy block payload.

    The presentation to Musk did not go as planned. The payload team assumed, incorrectly, that Musk would be fine with a typical test payload on such an important launch. That’s not Musk’s style. He wanted a fun payload and sent the team away to come up with one. They came back with their old list of goofy ideas, and Musk loved the car idea. He immediately offered up his personal 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport.

    This is how we are going to “conquer” space, by a combination of scientific and technical know-how plus serious thinking outside the box and being truly bold. Musk has put his money where his mouth is and in spectacular PR fashion to boot. I have noticed that most of the naysayers display an ignorance of space and/or are stuck in old-school style thinking, with undoubtedly a dollop or more of jealousy.

    • ljk February 8, 2018, 16:34

      Another quote from the above Motortrend article, this one about what they did to prepare the 2010 Tesla Roadster for space flight:

      A few weeks later, the car rolled into a SpaceX workshop to be prepped for spaceflight, and the real work began. Things launched into space first must survive the launch, which as you can imagine is both loud and violent. Like all payloads, the Roadster needed to undergo sonic, vibration, vacuum, and other standard testing to make sure that it wouldn’t come apart during the launch and ascent and damage the rocket and that it would survive in space.

      It was quickly determined the car needed to be stripped. After all, the only launch it was designed for was a stoplight drag. All the glass had to go, as did the battery. With the battery out, there was no need to keep the drivetrain in, either, so that went, too. Musk himself has been very open about prototype rockets tending to explode, and no one wants to scatter 1,000 pounds of lithium across the upper atmosphere. Other than the obvious weak points like glass, SpaceX engineers were impressed with the rigidity and durability of the Lotus-based Roadster in their tests.

      • John walker February 9, 2018, 4:23

        Thanks for the link. The roadster battery only contained 50kg of LCE (lithium carbonate equivalent) which is not the same as lithium metal. Lithium carbonate is 18wt% lithium so the battery had about 9kg or 20lb lithium and not 1000.

        • ljk February 9, 2018, 10:14

          Thank you for the correction, John. I was wondering where they got the 1,000 pounds number. Either someone slipped with a zero or they weren’t fact-checked. Maybe both.

  • John walker February 8, 2018, 17:10

    Just for the record the 3rd burn was a so called “burn to depletion”. So no precise trajectory was aspired. In the end the available fuel reserves were pretty close to the precalculated values. Trajectory calculated by JPL Horizon from data given by Spacex gives an aphelion of about 257 million km. So well within the range Musk predicted last year and no where near the asteroid belt. Great work all round Spacex.

  • Andrew Palfreyman February 8, 2018, 21:46

    I hope the licence plates and registration are up to date!

  • ljk February 9, 2018, 10:27

    Good news for Starman: Spacefaring Tesla Roadster will miss Mars and asteroids

    by Alan Boyle on February 8, 2018 at 10:54 am

    It took a day or two, but astronomers have figured out where the Tesla Roadster launched into deep space aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is going. And it’s not the planet Mars or the asteroid belt.

    Observations of the Roadster, which has a spacesuit-clad mannequin named Starman riding in the driver’s seat, indicate that it’s in an elliptical orbit around the sun that will take it just outside the orbit of Mars and then back to slightly within Earth’s orbital distance.

    If you run out the orbit over the foreseeable future, it’s not on a path to run into Earth, or Mars, or any asteroids.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    SpaceX’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, raised some eyebrows hours after Tuesday’s launch when he reported that the Roadster received more of a push from the Falcon Heavy rocket’s upper stage than expected. He said it was on a course that would take it deep within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

    Later observations and calculations have shown that it won’t go that far out. Its farthest distance from the sun will be about 158 million miles — a point that it’s slated to reach on its first go-around on Nov. 19.

    It’ll come back to just inside Earth’s orbital distance on Sept. 1, 2019, but our planet won’t be anywhere near it at the time. Or any other time.

    CBS News quoted McDowell as saying that the orbit is likely to remain stable for centuries to come, but probably not for the millions of years that Musk was hoping for. That’s because of subtle influences from temperature shifts and Jupiter’s gravitational influence.

    “It’s tiny, but over timescales of millions of years it’s enough to shrink the orbit and make the thing fall into the sun,” McDowell told CBS News. “So it’s a race between does that happen before some Jupiter perturbation ejects it from the system.”

  • ljk February 9, 2018, 10:38

    Did NASA pass up SpaceX offer for Falcon Heavy payload? Former NASA official raises questions

    by Alan Boyle on February 8, 2018 at 8:41 pm


    To quote:

    The point of Garver’s op-ed was that NASA should turn its focus away from the Space Launch System, which is costing billions of dollars annually and isn’t due to fly until 2019 or 2020. She said NASA should make use of SpaceX’s less expensive Falcon Heavy instead:

    “Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the cost of one SLS launch — and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration.”

  • ljk February 9, 2018, 11:12

    Amateur astronomers capture the Tesla Roadster on its way towards Mars orbit and beyond:



    Text from the Spaceweather.com page:

    AMATEUR ASTRONOMERS PHOTOGRAPH ROADSTER IN SPACE: It’s official. Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster is a spacecraft. NASA is now listing the electric car in its database of celestial objects with an ephemeris for tracking it available on JPL’s Horizons web site.


    Using that ephemeris, along with a remote-controlled telescope in Siding Spring, Australia, amateur astronomer Adriano Valvasori photographed the Roadster on Feb. 8th. It is the faint speck circled in red: [See link above.]

    At the time, the car was 493,000 km (306,000) away, not far beyond the orbit of the Moon, receding from Earth about 3.7 km/s (8,300 mph). Reflecting sunlight, it shone about as brightly as a 16th magnitude star.

    Another amateur astronomer, Raymond Kneip, photographed the Roadster about 3 hours before Valvasori did: [See link above.]

    “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever captured with a telescope,” he says. Like Valvasori, Kneip used an iTelescope at the Siding Spring Observatory to photograph the hurtling Tesla.

    NASA designates the spacecraft “Tesla Roadster” with two aliases: “Starman” and “2018-017A,” described in the ephemeris as follows:

    Dummy payload from the first launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle [on Feb. 6, 2018]. Consists of a standard Tesla Roadster automobile and a spacesuit-wearing mannequin nicknamed “Starman”. Also includes a Hot Wheels toy model Roadster on the car’s dash with a mini-Starman inside. A data storage device placed inside the car contains a copy of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novels. A plaque on the attachment fitting between the Falcon Heavy upper stage and the Tesla is etched with the names of more than 6,000 SpaceX employees.

    To see the ephemeris for yourself, launch the Horizons web interface and follow these instructions: Click “change” next to Target Body. Type in “SpaceX” and hit enter. Click “Generate Ephemeris.” The celestial coordinates of the Roadster will appear on your screen.

  • ljk February 9, 2018, 11:41

    Russia Is Now Working on a Super Heavy Rocket of Its Own

    The spiritual successor to Russia’s largest rockets plans to fly in 2028.

    By Anatoly Zak

    February 8, 2018


    If we are going to have a global competition involving rockets, better to have spacecraft as their payloads than nuclear warheads.

  • ljk February 9, 2018, 11:45

    Deimos Sky Survey captures SpaceX’s Starman Tesla Roadster / Falcon Heavy Upper Stage

    This morning at 6:09 AM local time from the South of Spain, Elecnor Deimos Space Surveillance & Tracking Centre captured a moving object at a distance of 520.000 km and at only 20 arcmin from the predicted position of the Starman-driven Tesla Roadster, which was launched towards Mars by SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy vehicle during a historic event on the 6th of February 2018. Whether the object observed is the Tesla vehicle itself or the upper stage of the launcher is yet to be confirmed.

    In the hours previous to the observation, the astronomy software developer and founder of Project Pluto, Bill Gray, computed a preliminary orbit of great accuracy that was key to capture the object. He then forwarded this information to several observatories, but the low elevation over the horizon and its closeness to the Moon made the observations really challenging for most of them.

    Deimos Sky Survey (DeSS) sent the measurements obtained from the observations at around 8 AM, Spanish local time. These, together with the ones provided by the SONEAR Observatory from Brazil at a distance slightly greater than that of the Moon (390.000 to 416.000km), have enabled the determination of an orbit that will ensure the tracking of the object for the following week, before it gets too faint. “With either of their data, we’d have gotten a decent orbit. With both, we’ve got one that will ensure it’ll be easy to keep track of [the object]” says Bill Gray.


  • ljk February 9, 2018, 11:57

    The fate of the Falcon Heavy core rocket:


  • ljk February 9, 2018, 12:17
  • ljk February 9, 2018, 13:00

    Where Is Elon Musk’s Space Tesla Actually Going?

    The payload of SpaceX’s recently launched rocket overshot its planned orbit near Mars.

    The dummy astronaut Starman, wearing a SpaceX space suit, in the driver’s seat of a red Tesla Roadster in space as it speeds away from Earth.

    Marina Koren

    February 8, 2018

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—There is, at this very moment, a shiny red car floating around in our solar system.

    The car, a 2008 Tesla Roadster, hitched a ride to space on what is now the most powerful rocket in operation, the Falcon Heavy, built by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. The goal of the Falcon Heavy’s first flight—aside from not blowing up—was to put the Tesla into an elliptical orbit between Earth and Mars, a car and two planets joined together in an endless loop around the sun. That kind of orbit would, at certain times, bring the Tesla near Mars.

    The Tesla successfully reached orbit Tuesday afternoon, attached to the upper part of the rocket, and coasted for about six hours—a move meant to demonstrate a new capability for the U.S. Air Force, one of SpaceX’s customers. A livestream from the payload showed surreal views of the car and its sole passenger, a mannequin stuffed into a SpaceX space suit, floating above Earth. Then SpaceX cut the feed, and the upper stage’s engine reignited one last time to give the Tesla a final push into its destined orbit.

    After that final blast, Musk shared the Tesla’s location. The car was heading to the asteroid belt.

    Wait, what?

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    According to the revised data, Rivkin says, it will take the Tesla about 18.8 months to complete one trip around the sun. This means that the car will reach its farthest distance from Earth in about half that time. The Tesla will cross the orbit of Mars twice per orbit, so Musk is still fulfilling his wish to send his Tesla “to” Mars—it’ll just take a little longer between visits.

    The new numbers suggest the payload reached a speed of 33.5 kilometers per second after the last push, which Rivkin says is about 2.5 percent more speed than SpaceX would have needed to keep the Tesla from going no farther than the orbit of Mars.

    “I have no idea whether that’s because they wanted some margin, or things were more efficient than they were expecting, or what,” Rivkin says. “If this were a real Mars mission, this would be a disastrously wrong orbit and might not be recoverable. But since this may have been ‘put it up to full throttle and let’s see what this baby can do,’ it’s not a problem.”

    Musk’s tweet sounds like the Tesla is approaching the asteroid belt, but it’s not. “Musk’s message is a bit ambiguous,” Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, said in an email. “The payload is still very much near the Earth.”

    Weryk has some experience in tracking unusual-looking objects in the solar system. He was the first to lay eyes on ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, while looking through the data of the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii last October. ‘Oumuamua was traveling much faster than the Tesla, and it’s probably only now reaching the asteroid belt.

    If the Tesla did reach the asteroid belt, the car would stick out like a sore thumb in terms of appearance, but not necessarily in size. “Depending on if you take the size of the car or the size of the car plus second stage (that it’s apparently attached to), there are billions to trillions of objects of that size already in the asteroid belt,” Rivkin says.

    The car may have even found itself on a collision course with its new neighbors—but nothing too bad. “The asteroid belt is quite large, and they are spaced much farther apart than you might think,” Weryk said.

    Instead, the Tesla would have been bombarded by teeny, tiny cosmic dust. “It’ll probably get hit with something the size of very fine sand every year or so, and get hit a few times an hour with 100-nanometer-size dust,” Rivkin says. “On average, we think it’d get hit by a fist-sized rock every several million years.”

    Whatever the Tesla’s exact orbit is now, it won’t stay the same forever. Out there in the solar system, the car will be subject to the gravitational tugs of other planets.

    • ljk February 9, 2018, 13:05

      Another post said there is a small chance that the Tesla Roadster could be flung out of the Sol system by Jupiter. Which would be beyond delightful.

      More quotes from the above Atlantic article:

      “Before it gets smashed to pieces, I’d expect its orbit to be changed by the gravity of Jupiter and other forces—its orbit will be stretched out and it will start crossing not just Mars’s orbit twice every 18.8 months but Earth’s, and eventually Venus’s and Mercury’s,” Rivkin says. “If it manages not to hit any of those planets (or the moon), it’ll eventually end its days millions of years from now hitting the sun.”

      Before the Falcon Heavy launched, Musk told reporters the Tesla would at times come “extremely close” to Mars. “There’s a tiny chance that it will hit Mars,” he said. “Extremely tiny.”

      If the Tesla avoids a collision with Mars—and anything else—it will remain in its loop around the sun for perhaps hundreds of millions of years. Powerful telescopes like Pan-STARRS may be able to see the Tesla if it crosses their field of view—and if it’s not too cloudy—“at least for a time until it is too faint,” Weryk said. If they don’t see it now, they can try again in 11 years, when the Tesla should approach the Earth, according to corrected data. Astronomers track near-Earth objects like asteroids and comets by looking for the sunlight reflected by their surfaces. A shiny red car is much brighter than a plain old rock.

  • ljk February 12, 2018, 10:44

    Elon Musk’s Roadster launch sparks sales of Hot Wheels toy Tesla

    Feb. 12, 2018 – The launch of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster on SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy rocket has fostered fresh demand for the same car now traveling through space.

    No, not the electric hot rod, but rather its smaller replica: a Mattel Hot Wheels toy that was mounted on the Roadster’s dashboard.

    “FYI: If you’re sitting on any extra of the Tesla Roadsters, now is the time to sell them. The SpaceX bump has them jumping in value,” a Hot Wheels collector wrote on Reddit under the website’s forum dedicated to the die-cast cars.

    The red Hot Wheels Tesla Roadster sold for $1.09 when it hit toy stores in 2016 and was selling between $5 and $15 on eBay as recently last month. Now, less than week after the launch, it is commanding as much as $100, with newer listings asking $150 or more.

    Musk mounted the Hot Wheels model on his space-bound Tesla after a friend suggested the idea. The “little car in the car,” as Musk phrased it, lifted off on Tuesday (Feb. 6) and is now on its way to a point in space just beyond the orbit of Mars. This July, it will begin to loop back on an elliptical orbit that is expected to repeat for millennia to come.

    “It is silly and fun, but silly and fun things are important,” said Musk, who is the chief executive at both SpaceX and Tesla. “I think the imagery of it is something that is going to get people excited around the world.”

    Full article here:


    The major thing missing from both the mainline and Super models that the Hot Wheels toy in space has is a Starman.

    Musk had the replica Roadster modified to include its own scale model of “Starman,” the spacesuited mannequin that is “driving” the real Roadster, named in memory of the late musician David Bowie.

    “There’s a tiny Roadster with a tiny spaceman,” said Musk.

    The popularity of the Falcon Heavy’s launch has led some Hot Wheels and SpaceX fans to hope Mattel will produce a Starman special edition of the Hot Wheels Tesla Roadster in the (near) future.

    “Okay Hot Wheels, no pressure, but if you’re not making a tiny, midnight cherry Tesla Roadster with Starman in the driver’s seat, you might be doing something wrong,” wrote one fan on Twitter. Similar comments were also posted on Mattel’s official Hot Wheels collectors forum.

    If Mattel does offer a new SpaceX-inspired Roadster, it will add to the company’s history of producing Hot Wheels toys for space missions in the news.

    In the 1990s, the company produced several Hot Wheels “Action Packs” that featured miniature versions of NASA’s Mars rovers, planetary probes and one that celebrated the spaceflights of astronaut John Glenn. More recently, Mattel offered a Hot Wheels toy version of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, which hit store shelves within a month of the mission landing on the Red Planet in August 2012.

  • ljk February 12, 2018, 14:39

    As one might imagine, the bulk of the articles in this week’s The Space Review are about the Falcon Heavy and its famous payload. These are the ones directly on the subject:




  • ljk February 13, 2018, 12:07

    The mysterious storage device Elon Musk shot into space

    Inspired by Asimov’s ‘Foundation,’ the ‘Archs’ are made to preserve human history.

    Phillip Tracy

    2018-02-12 09:14 am


    To quote:

    But there was one component of the historic flight that many people overlooked. Sitting in the car was another mysterious passenger only mentioned in passing before the launch—a tiny, one-inch storage disk called an Arch (pronounced “Ark”). Its purpose is as ambitious as the flight that took it into space: to preserve humankind should it ever disappear.

    What is Arch?

    The Arch library floating toward Mars’ orbit is one in a series of five made from quartz silica (otherwise known as fused quartz) using new femtosecond laser techniques to create “5D optical storage.” Scientists call it the Superman memory crystal. Without overwhelming you with technical details (see here), these small crystals are capable of securely storing vast amounts of data and are expected to survive for 14 billion years. It’s believed that, within 10 years from now, a 3.75-inch version will be able to hold 360 terabytes of data, or about 7,000 Blu-ray disks. But like the Mars-bound Tesla, the Arch sent to space was just a test.

  • ljk February 13, 2018, 16:32

    The accidental library: Why Elon Musk launched books to space that could last 14 billion years [Longer than our star Sol, hmmm!]


    To quote:

    SpaceX hasn’t responded to a question about where on the car the disk was placed, which Spivack knows but says he can’t tell. The spaceflight company also hasn’t confirmed whether one of Musk’s other tweets — about a copy of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being placed in the glove compartment, next to a towel — was for real or just a Twitter joke.

    (Even if it isn’t, a regular unprotected paperback book in space is likely to get ripped to shreds by radiation before too long.)

  • Michael C. Fidler February 14, 2018, 10:18

    The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with

    “On February 6th, 2018 SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster on a Mars-crossing orbit. We perform N-body simulations to determine the fate of the object over the next several million years, under the relevant perturbations acting on the orbit. The orbital evolution is initially
    dominated by close encounters with the Earth. The first close encounter with the Earth will occur in 2091. The repeated encounters lead to a random walk that eventually causes close encounters with other terrestrial planets and the Sun. Long-term integrations become highly
    sensitive to the initial conditions after several such close encounters. By running a large ensemble of simulations with slightly perturbed initial conditions, we estimate the probability of a collision with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be 6% and 2.5%, respectively.
    We estimate the dynamical lifetime of the Tesla to be a few tens of millions of years.


  • ljk February 16, 2018, 12:50

    What are the Chances Musk’s Space Tesla is Going to Crash Into Venus or Earth? – Universe Today

    Article written: 15 Feb 2018
    Updated: 15 Feb 2018

    by Matt Williams


    To quote:

    As they indicated, the Roadster bears some similarities to Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and ejecta from the Earth-Moon system. In short, NEAs permeate the inner Solar System, regularly crossing the orbits of terrestrial planets and experiencing close encounters with them (resulting in the occasional collision). In addition, ejecta from the Earth and Moon also experience close encounters with the terrestrial planets and collide with them.

    However, the Tesla Roadster is unique in two key respects: For one, it originated from Earth rather than being pulled from the Asteroid Belt into the inner Solar System by strong resonances. Second, it had a higher ejection velocity when it left Earth, which tends to result in fewer impacts. “Given the peculiar initial conditions and even stranger object, it therefore remains an interesting question to probe its dynamics and eventual fate,” they claim.

  • ljk February 21, 2018, 16:33

    It is amusing how certain segments of the media and general public interpret the very low calculated odds of Musk’s Tesla Roadster hitting Venus, Earth, or Mars even in the distant future as a near certainty it will happen. Probably the same reason that so many also play the lottery, even though the odds are so much higher that they won’t win.


    I predict that long before Musk’s red sports car collides with anything in space, adventurous humans in a future where living and working in space will be commonplace will go after it as a rare if not unique artifact of the relatively early Space Age with a price that will probably more than make up for the costs of searching and recovering it.

    I just hope when they do find the Tesla that they at least examine the car early on to see how its various parts and materials handled the long exposure to interplanetary space.

  • ljk February 21, 2018, 17:11

    The Tesla Roadster was imaged on February 18 at a distance of 2.1 million miles (3.5 million kilometers) from Earth:


    The car was reflecting sunlight 40 million times fainter than the generated light from the star Polaris.

    To quote:

    It’s remarkable how the dot of light captured on Feb. 8 looks much larger than the speck taken on Feb. 18. Soon, it will be so far away that researchers will need a 3.2-foot (1 meter) or larger telescope to see it, Masi said.

  • ljk February 28, 2018, 10:22

    Here is another reason to one day find and examine the Tesla Roadster: To see how the microorganisms on it have faired in deep space for so long:


  • ljk March 1, 2018, 11:25

    Bacteria Surviving On Musk’s Tesla Are Either A Bio-threat Or A Backup Copy Of Life On Earth

    Article written: 28 Feb 2018

    by Evan Gough


    To quote:

    But even if some bacteria survived for a while in some hidden recess somewhere on the Tesla Roadster, could it realistically survive for millions of years in space?

    As far as NASA is concerned, length of time in space is one component of sterilization. Some missions are designed with the craft placed in a long-term orbit at the end of its mission, so that the space environment can eventually destroy any lingering bacterial life secreted away somewhere. Surely, if the Roadster does ever collide with Earth, and if it takes millions of years for that to happen, and if it’s not destroyed on re-entry, the car would be sterilized by its long-duration journey?

    That seems to be the far more likely outcome. You never know for sure, but the space-faring Roadster is probably not a hazardous bio-threat, nor a back-up for life on Earth; those are pretty fanciful ideas.


    Amazing. It is as if journalists and even some scientists have somehow forgotten how many satellites and their attendant boosters and other artifacts have been lofted into space since 1957 in less than sterile conditions.

    Musk’s Tesla Roadster is a threat to no one and nothing, especially biologically. However, there are plenty of real threats right here on Earth in comparison, with ignorance vying for the top spot in that category.

  • ljk March 5, 2018, 11:51

    If we really want to reach the stars, we need to really work on our foundations in space. Are we FINALLY ready to do this, thanks in no small part to the private space industry?


  • ljk March 5, 2018, 12:09

    There’s Only One Way For Humanity to Survive. Go To Mars.

    Futurist Michio Kaku sees humans doing ballet on Mars and projecting their brains into the cosmos. And aliens? Oh, they’re coming.

    By Simon Worrall

    PUBLISHED March 3, 2018

    As a child in Palo Alto, California, he built an atom smasher in the garage. He later became one of the founders of string theory. Today, with his flowing mane of silver locks, Michio Kaku is one of the most recognizable faces of science, with several bestselling books and numerous television appearances, including on the Discovery Channel and the BBC.

    In his new book, The Future Of Humanity, he argues passionately that our future lies not on Earth, but in the stars.

    When National Geographic caught up with him by phone at his office at City College, in New York City, he explained how billionaires like Elon Musk are transforming space travel; why laser porting may be the best way to reach other galaxies; and how one day there may be ballet dancers on Mars.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    Let’s end with the million-dollar question: Will we one day make contact with another civilization in outer space? If so, when? And do you agree with Stephen Hawking, who warned of the dangers of contact?

    I definitely think we have to take his warning to heart because we will one day encounter other terrestrial life forms. They’re probably going to be thousands of years more advanced than us. They’re not going to want to plunder us for resources because there are a lot of uninhabited planets out there, like Mars, that they can plunder without having to deal with restive natives like us. The main threat is that we might be in the way. In the novel The War of The Worlds, the Martians wanted to take over the Earth not because they were evil or because they didn’t like Homo sapiens. They had to remove us so Martians could thrive on Earth and terraform it so it looked like Mars.

    We have discovered 4,000 planets so far in the galaxy, and we now know that on average every star in the galaxy has a planet of some kind. So I think it’s inevitable that we’re going to bump into one of these advanced civilizations and it will change world history. Not like Cortez meeting Montezuma and shattering Aztec civilization in a matter of months. The conquistadors had a hidden agenda. They wanted to plunder the gold of the Aztecs. I don’t think the aliens will want that. And, hopefully, there’ll be a mentor to show us the way to the future without having to go to war and resort to savagery and barbarism.

    Funny, I have seen other recent interviews with Kaku where he says humanity encountering advanced aliens may not be a good thing for our species and our planet.

    Kaku was also a huge opponent of the Cassini mission to Saturn in 1997 because of its RTGs and the misguided claims that if the probe crashes on Earth it will spread plutonium everywhere. Well Cassini was plunged into the gas giant last fall where it melted, so we are all safe now.

  • ljk March 30, 2018, 10:48

    What is allowed in outer space?

    By Christopher D. Johnson

    March 30th 2018

    Humanity is no longer just exploring outer space for the sake of leaving flags and footprints. On February 6, the SpaceX Corporation conducted a successful first flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket, capable of carrying 63,800 kg (140,700 lb) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), a capability not seen since the Apollo era. As the rocket’s reusable stages can be refueled and reflown, this rocket is a significant innovation and not merely a return to past capabilities.

    And with swagger uncharacteristic of the current space industry, the Falcon Heavy carried a Tesla Roadster sports car complete with a dummy at the wheel and live-streamed the whole thing. It should be clear by now that the space world is changing.

    SpaceX is not the only pioneer. A wide range of new actors are entering outer space, including startup companies and nations accessing space for the first time. In addition to traditional space activities, the modern space industry fully intends to expand humankind’s economic and scientific horizon by building, making, buying, selling, and (soon enough) living in outer space.