For about three weeks the world has been uncertain whether Elon Musk was serious or not with his claim that the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy would send a Tesla Roadser to Mars (well, onto a solar orbit that would zip past Mars). Turns out he wasn’t kidding:
A Red Car for the Red Planet Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring. Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel. The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.
This… makes sense. It is standard for a new launch vehicle to not launch a paying payload, because the first launch of a new vehicle stands a fair chance of not working right. So they launch inert mass simulators. So… why not launch a car? It’s attention-getting, it builds on corporate branding, it’s newsworthy. But mostly…
Sure, it would be better to send a practical payload… space probes and the like. But the fact is that there isn’t a Space probes R Us superstore; these things are extremely rare and extremely expensive. You lose one of those things, and there’ll be a whole lot of financial trouble. But Tesla Roadsters? Bunch of ’em.