So, in short, what SpaceX has created here is a heavy lifter capable of expanding the International Space Station or building the next orbiting science lab, since the ISS is due for retirement and will de-orbit in little under a decade.
Six hours after SpaceX launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket on its first test flight yesterday (Feb. 6), unsuspecting skywatchers in the western U.S. caught a glimpse of the rocket's second stage firing up one last time as it blasted out of Earth's orbit and off into the solar system.
"The mission went as well as one could have hoped", an ecstatic Musk told reporters after the launch, calling it "probably the most exciting thing I have seen literally ever".
Starman and the car will continue their slow outward movement, and will eventually cross the orbit of Mars and then enter the asteroid belt, where it seems likely it's going to get nailed by one of the many, many rocks there.
At 70m tall and 12.2m wide, the powerful rocket can carry 60 tonnes worth of cargo into Low Earth Orbit and nearly 17 tonnes to Mars.
Establishing a colony on Mars is Musk's stated long-term goal and Falcon Heavy is one step in the ambitious project he outlined last year.
Falcon Heavy essentially comprises three previously tested rockets strapped together to create one giant spacecraft.
NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, joined in the congratulations - and noted NASA's role in leasing Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A to SpaceX for 20 years. "But fortunately, that's not what happened". Elon Musk, the CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, decided that was too boring.
"Most of our engineering resources will be dedicated to BFR and so I think that will make things go quite quickly", Musk said. They cut back through the Earth's atmosphere and landed in unison at a Kennedy Space Center landing pad. The scattering of tiny fragments of an electric vehicle is pollution at the minimum - and a safety hazard for future missions at worst.
The Heavy already is rattling the launch market. For the moment Elon's Musketeers have set a new bar for modern reusable orbital delivery in terms of the amount of heft available and the cost per kilogram.
SpaceX's webcast sho-wed the 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.
The Heavy is intended for massive satellites, like those used by the US military and major-league communication companies. They say it will be destroyed by radiation because the plastics and carbon fibre elements of the vehicle will not be able to withstand the extreme levels of radiation from the sun.
The gigantic rocket shot into the sky, with two of its three boosters detaching and returning to Earth safely less than 10 minutes after liftoff.
Mike launched a GoFundMe campaign claiming he was "on an adventure to launch myself into space with a homemade rocket". Musk then pulled off something perhaps even more surprising - winning public praise from the White House.
Also, the rocket's maiden voyage is believed to bring deep space exploration closer. At a press conference yesterday, he prepared us all for the inevitable shutdown of the most strangely fascinating live stream since Puddle Watch. SpaceX had been planning to fly a pair of tourists around the moon as early as this year. All that costs money, which Tesla is burning through at a fast clip.
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