SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy soars toward Mars after perfect launch

Cape Canaveral: The world’s most powerful rocket, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, has blasted off on its highly anticipated maiden test flight, carrying CEO Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla roadster toward an orbit near Mars. Screams and cheers erupted at Cape Canaveral, Florida as the massive rocket fired its 27 engines and rumbled into the blue sky over the same NASA launchpad that served as a base for the US missions to Moon four decades ago.

“Wow, did you guys see that? That was awesome,” said SpaceX commentator Lauren Lyons as applause thundered through mission control yesterday. SpaceX commentator John Innsbrucker said it was “everything you could want in a test flight.” Loaded with Musk’s red Tesla and a mannequin in a spacesuit, the monster rocket’s historic test voyage has captured the world’s imagination.

SpaceX’s webcast showed Musk’s Tesla roadster soaring into space, as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” played in the background — with the words “DON’T PANIC” visible on the dashboard, in an apparent nod to the sci-fi series the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Musk posted a video of the car on Twitter after launch, in which he can be heard laughing in the background as a camera behind the mannequin’s head shows the car apparently in orbit around Earth.

“It actually really doesn’t look real, it’s crazy,” Musk can be heard saying. He later posted another video showing a “live view of Starman” appearing to cruise, its gloved hand on the wheel, through the darkness of space, the Earth’s image reflected on its glossy red surface.

The car was also outfitted with a high-data storage unit containing Isaac Asimov’s science fiction book series, the Foundation Trilogy, and a plaque bearing the names of 6,000 SpaceX employees. About two minutes into the flight, the two side boosters peeled away from the center core and made their way back toward Earth for an upright landing. Both rockets landed side by side in unison on launchpads, live video images showed. “New Olympic sport – Synchronized Landings!” wrote NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik on Twitter. “HUGE congrats to the @SpaceX team on your maiden flight! Another giant step towards making spaceflight for everyone a
reality.”