Elon Musk makes first steps into his attempt to colonize Mars
by Meredith Mclaughlin
On Tuesday, February 6th, SpaceX launched its first Falcon Heavy rocket into space, which was mostly successful in completing its mission of shooting a Tesla Roadster into orbit around Mars. This launch is significant because the Falcon Heavy is not only the most powerful rocket in use today (second in power to the retired Saturn V), but also because it’s a reusable rocket, with its side boosters and central core being designed to be able to land themselves back on earth. Though the Falcon Heavy wasn’t able to perfectly complete its purpose; the rocket wasn’t 100% successful in re-landing its center core and the Tesla Roadster went out further than intended. However these slip ups seem to be dwarfed by the fact that the rocket made it into space at all. But with this new success, what does SpaceX have in store next, and what does this development mean for the future of space travel?
Elon Musk is a toad man, it’s true, but it can’t be denied that the Falcon Heavy really is a big deal for space travel. The reusability of its rocket boosters drives down both the cost and debris that normally come with any rocket launch. Most importantly though are the commercial capabilities of the new rocket. The Falcon Heavy has the ability to carry more than twice the weight of any other rocket in operation today, making it the prime choice for any companies or countries who need to put something heavy into orbit. Musk plans to charge $90 million per launch for anyone who wishes to put cargo on the Heavy, which is $322 million cheaper than SpaceX’s competitor United Launch Alliance, and about $910 million cheaper than a launch done by NASA. So far there are two planned launches scheduled for 2018, one is a satellite launch from Saudi Arabia and the other is a test payload for the US military. With SpaceX’s low prices and high power combined with this promising launch, it seems that the market will choose the falcon heavy to go back into space soon.
While the technicalities and implications of the Falcon Heavy launch are interesting on their own, the imagination can’t help but be drawn to the idea of a bright red car with an astronaut mannequin named Spaceman rocketing through space. SpaceX was able to get a video feed on the car for a short while, and live stream viewers were able to watch Spaceman drive through space to David Bowie’s hit song “Life on Mars?” The Roadster was test cargo meant to show the capabilities of the Heavy. But one must wonder, is this the new Voyager? Will Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster be found by some alien civilization eons later, thus serving as the last testament to the existence of man? It’s possible, if the car ever breaks out of the orbit it’s beginning to form between us and Mars. Right now the car is still visible to telescopes, but from the ground it looks almost identical to an asteroid.
What does this launch mean in the long term for SpaceX? Well, The Falcon Heavy is not the last rocket Musk plans to create. The Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) is SpaceX’s next project; a project that Musk hopes will be the beginning of man’s colonization of Mars. The BFR will be able to carry hundreds of people, and could be used to either take passengers to Mars or rapidly from one place to another on Earth. The BFR is sure to be the herald of a new era where colonists sell Martian beaver furs live under contract of Musk’s South California Company.