Starman Keeps on Cruising... to the Asteroid Belt Print E-mail

Space Waves

February 8, 2018

In the past I've described Elon Musk as irrepressible. I'm not sure that is a strong enough depiction.Starman 1

Following a brilliant launch on February 6 of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy into bright blue skies, eight minutes later the pair of F-9 rockets landed side by side at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, deploying legs and coming to rest on twin pads. A pair of synchronized giant candles dropping from the heavens. The rockets unleashed powerful sonic booms that echoed across the Space Coast.

Onboard the historic flight was Musk's personal 2009 Tesla, an all-electric, cherry red, rag-top roadster encapsulated in the rocket's upper protective fairing. Within a half-hour after liftoff, SpaceX's three cameras began beaming live views of car back to Earth. That webcast lasted 4 hours and 39 minutes before going offline.

The images showed "Starman," a mannequin driver with his left hand guiding the wheel, barreling through the blackness of space with the shimmering sight of planet Earth in the rear view mirror. Starman is wearing the white spacesuit and helmet that astronauts will wear on SpaceX flights to the International Space Station. Accompanying the $100,000 roadster's voyage is the music of David Bowie's "Life on Mars" and "Space Oddity" playing at full volume on a continuous loop.

Starman 4The image of Starman and the surreal red roadster has ignited the imaginations of tens of millions of people all around the world. Social media went wild, the image getting posted and re-posted.

The message “Don’t panic!” is stamped on the dashboard along with a sign "Made on Earth by humans."

After reaching orbit, the Roadster coasted through space for about six hours before the Falcon Heavy second stage fired up one last time sending the car out into deep space and an orbit around the sun stretching way beyond Mars headed to the Asteroid Belt, said Musk.

Shortly afterwards people in the western U.S. began describing rocket sightings in the evening sky. While SpaceX has not officially confirmed that the images or videos on social media were of the Falcon Heavy, it was the only rocket scheduled to be flying over the Earth at that time and place, so it seems highly unlikely these spectators saw anything else, according to Space.com.

On Tuesday evening Musk said the batteries for the cameras were only expected to last 12 hours, so this was likely the last we'll see of the Roadster and Starman.Starman 2

"I think the imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world," Musk told Florida Today. "And it’s still tripping me out."

Musk noted that outside of the earth's atmosphere, the car's cherry red color looked "kind of weird, " too crisp" — proof that it was real.

"You can tell it’s real because it looks so fake," he joked. "It’s just literally a normal car in space, which I kind of like the absurdity of that. It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think silly, fun things are important."

Photos courtesy of SpaceX

 

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