Musk’s Falcon Heavy Tesla Launch Wows Space Pros

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SpaceX made history on Feb. 6 when they successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on its first test flight, bringing the company one step closer to a journey to Mars.
The $90 million launch was in many ways the first test not just of a rocket, but of a looming multi-billion-dollar industry that may change the nature of space exploration from a government-run affair to something run by multinational corporations.
Shortly after liftoff, the side boosters detached and came hurtling back down to Earth, where they landed back upright in true SpaceX fashion.
Reusing the boosters is something founder and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, has always strived to do. SpaceX first successfully landed a first stage booster in December of 2015, and they have been relanding and reusing their boosters ever since.
“Having boosters that can return and land is a huge breakthrough,” said Lynn McCarty, a physics professor at Bucks. “It’s important because it provides big savings: in time, in materials, and in construction costs.” McCarty went on to explain that “reusing boosters is not a new idea”, but the “feasibility [to reuse rockets] has been limited by the amount of computing power needed to manage the guidance for the landing, as well as the technology needed to carry it out.”
Elon Musk believes the reusability of the boosters is not just cost-effective, but also imperative if he wants to go to Mars, stating that “the revolutionary breakthrough will come with rockets that are fully and rapidly reusable. We will never conquer Mars unless we do that. It’ll be too expensive. The American colonies would never have been pioneered if the ships that crossed the ocean hadn’t been reusable.”
It is customary during a test flight for the rocket to carry some sort of payload, usually a block of cement or steel, but Musk thought it would be interesting to put his personal “midnight cherry” Tesla Roadster sports car as the rocket’s payload. Also the owner and CEO of Tesla, Musk had the idea of launching his quarter million dollar, all-electric sports car out into deep space.
After the Falcon Heavy climbed out of Earth’s atmosphere, the Roadster shot out of the nose of the rocket, and it now freely spinning around in space, on a course for the asteroid belt. “It’s just literally a normal car in space. Which I kind of like the absurdity of that,” Musk said at a press conference held after the launch.
Why is this launch so significant and important for the future of space exploration? “I find it notable,” McCarty said, “that this venture is by a private company, rather than by a government agency. As I see it, a privately developed space launch program would have increased flexibility and speed of development. That’s because they are not accountable to the taxpayers for the program’s value, as a government venture would be.” The $90 million price tag of Falcon Heavy may seem expensive at first, but it dwindles in comparison to NASA’s SLS program (NASA’s mission to go to Mars), which has an estimated cost of $500 million per launch (
Some commentators have criticized the launch, alleging that it has turned science into a commercial publicity stunt and releasing space junk (like the Tesla Roadster) into the solar system that could jeopardize the safety of future flights
“While NASA and SpaceX both have goals related to space exploration, I believe I can say with confidence that NASA would never have whimsically placed a fairly massive payload (with no real scientific value) into an inner system orbit, without first considering the future impact of doing so,” McCarty concluded.

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