spaceSpace and Physics

Elon Musk's Latest Plan Involves Sending His Car To Mars


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


Artist's impression of Falcon Heavy launching. SpaceX

Elon Musk has made a rather bizarre announcement on Twitter, claiming the first launch of his new mega-rocket will be used to take his very own Tesla Roadster to Mars.

This new rocket is SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, which will be the most powerful rocket currently in operation when it launches. The rocket has been continuously delayed, with the latest launch date of December 2017 slipping to January 2018.


Musk has made no secret about how risky this first launch will be, however. While there will be no one on board the rocket, he has repeatedly said that the Falcon Heavy may very well explode on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida when it attempts to take off.

For that reason, there has been a lot of talk about what this rocket would actually take to space, given that there's a decent chance it won't work at all. And, well, that was seemingly revealed in a tweet by Musk on Friday.

“Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity,” he said, possibly referring to this car.

“Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”


The tweet sparked a flurry of excitement, and also some confusion. People weren't sure if Musk was joking, or if he was being serious.

He seemingly confirmed to The Verge that yes, he was sending his Tesla to space. Then he told them he “totally made it up”, before later clarifying to other outlets that, no, he was being serious.

“Musk confirmed that this plan is, indeed, real,” said Ars Technica. “Another SpaceX official also said the Tesla payload was very much real.”

No other details have yet been released, but speaking to Phil Plait over at Syfy, Musk did say it wouldn't quite be going to Mars. Instead, it would be placed in what's called a Hohmann transfer orbit, which is one that merely swings past the orbital path of Mars, and not necessarily the planet itself.


Ever the showman, this would not be the first time Musk had done something a bit wacky with new hardware. In 2010, he placed a wheel of cheese on the first launch of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, a reference to Monty Python.

Putting a Tesla on a rocket and launching it to Mars is perhaps a bit more impressive, though. You can be pretty certain there'll be some cameras on board to capture all this if it does happen, considering the cross promotion (and free advertising) it'll give both Tesla and SpaceX.

A red car for a Red Planet, as Musk put it.


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