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Mars Space Businesses

SpaceX Plans To Blast a Tesla Roadster Into Orbit Around Mars ( 272

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he intends to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is partly because the rocket is experimental -- there is a non-trivial chance the rocket will explode on the launch pad, or shortly after launch. It is also partly because Musk is a master showman who knows how to grab attention. On Friday evening, Musk tweeted what that payload would be -- his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster."

And the car will be playing Space Oddity, by David Bowie; the song which begins, "Ground Control to Major Tom." Oh, and the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will send the Tesla into orbit around Mars. "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk added. Ars was able to confirm Friday night from a company source that this is definitely a legitimate payload. Earlier on Friday, Musk also said the Falcon Heavy launch would come "next month" from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, meaning in January.

"No private company has ever launched a spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit, let alone to another planet," according to the article, adding that SpaceX's new rocket "could play a major role in any plans the agency has to send humans to the Moon." In addition, Musk added on Twitter, "Red car for a red planet."

UPDATE (12/2/17): Saturday Elon Musk told The Verge that he "totally made it up" about sending a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Then in "multiple emails" to Ars Technica --- sent Saturday afternoon -- "Musk confirmed that this plan is, indeed, real."
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SpaceX Plans To Blast a Tesla Roadster Into Orbit Around Mars

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  • So Marvin the Martian is wealthy and is well up the reserve list for a Roadster? What's the Muskrat getting in return, an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?
    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      I hear that if Musk misses orbit, and the roadster crashes into Mars, that the kaboom will be earth-shattering.

  • It's a free launch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @11:53AM (#55663705) Homepage Journal

    This is the first launch of the Falcon Heavy. They're not getting a paying customer until they can prove that the rocket works. That means they don't have any important payload, so why not pull a stunt like this?

    Well, they will have to do some work to make sure any liquids or gasses in the vehicle don't cause explosions and mess up the test. Obviously they need to remove the valve stems on the tires, but they'll have to look at lots of other fluids and places where air is trapped to be sure it won't be a problem.

    Of course, there are other things they could launch. Perhaps they could do a resupply to the ISS--one of the few launches where the cargo isn't as expensive as the launch. They could also stage some supplies for a future Mars mission in Mars orbit. But if doing something like that would delay the launch as they prepare the payload, it might not be worth it.

    • I agree. There are lots of things that wouldn't cost that much, could be adapted to space storage fairly easily, and might turn out useful later on if it can be picked up from Mars orbit.

      That would be comparatively low-yield with regard to PR, though.

    • They could also stage some supplies for a future Mars mission in Mars orbit.

      I strongly suspect the car isn't going into a Mars orbit. Rather, it's most likely going into a solar orbit that passes by Mars. A true Mars orbit would require an additional stage, and at this point not even Elon Musk is going to invest in that.

    • by lorinc ( 2470890 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @12:19PM (#55663869) Homepage Journal

      Since it's a free launch, they could have proposed academics to send whatever experiments they want to put into mars orbit for free, with no guarantee of success. I'm pretty sure a lot of professors would have loved to have students come up with a micro satellite design and build it as part of a project. It's sad if it blows up on launch, but it's not critical, and if it works, it's cool for the students and maybe you get interesting measurements as a byproduct.

      As usual, it's PR winning against anything else that would have been more useful...

    • That means they don't have any important payload

      All the brains at SpaceX put together can't think of any thing useful, but expendable, to send to Mars orbit? If nothing else, send a payload of CubeSats and let some amateur people come up with ideas.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Because it makes Spacex and everyone involved look like total morons? Does anyone not see this? We are in the age of Trump and real science is badly needed. We need some wins. Instead, we get more Trump-style ego stunts. It's pathetic and you don't get why people are bitter about it?
      • I am afraid that complaining that Musk is pandering to the public because they are cretinous animals is too little too late.

        The rot set in around the time that the mobile phone, social media and reality TV arrived and now Mr and Mrs Moron think that they should be running civilization. And oddly enough when they all get together and vote they do run civilization. We are moving out of the enlightenment and back into the dark ages again. Nationalism and fascism, anti-science, religious extremism and the retur

        • Mr and Mrs Moron think that they should be running civilization. And oddly enough when they all get together and vote they do run civilization

          Yeah, that's called 'democracy'? Maybe you've heard of it? Then you complain we're going back to the age of kings, when you just said democracy is stupid? WTF? How do you argue like this? I guess it must be early onset Alzheimer's.

          • Democracy is great and all, but it has plenty of failure modes. Stupid people can democratically choose to do stupid things -- that's democracy, and it's also stupid.

            "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

    • But if doing something like that would delay the launch as they prepare the payload, it might not be worth it.

      SpaceX are clearly half-expecting this launch to end in Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly - from which they will still learn a great deal - and don't want that to be seen as a failure. Any attempt to launch something useful means that someone is going to be disappointed, so better to launch some junk.

      Besides, if you are launching supplies for a future space mission you do it properly or not at all - you don't want to fuck around and do it on the cheap because there's a 50% chance of it ending up in the Pacific

      • I think a shipping container full of donations would make a good payload. You could charge people $100/pound to put something in the shipping container. Even if there was a 90% chance of failure, I think you could find plenty of people who would pay to have something on a real rocket launch.

  • There is no more male idea in the history of the Universe, than "why don't we fly up to Mars and drive around - Jerry Seinfeld

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @12:18PM (#55663859) Journal

    ... the most valuable car in the solar system.

    Assuming it is (still) in a âoeparkingâ orbit (ha ha) around Mars and assuming that Mankind survives and prospers enough to colonize Mars, thatâ(TM)ll be one heck of a collectors item!

    It should be in mint(?) condition and, because itâ(TM)s electric, might actually work on planets without oxygen (the driver will need to wear a spacesuit of course).

    Then again, if it put into a stable parking orbit and presumably not âoelostâ or abandoned, are there any salvage rights? Call in the space lawyers! (Be careful though, their fees are astronomical!)

  • I wonder what kind of Auto Insurance Musk has...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 02, 2017 @12:35PM (#55663973)

    A Tesla Roadster is about to become the fastest car ever made.

  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @01:13PM (#55664141) Homepage Journal

    Now the question is how the truck will be arranged in the fairing? And then will it survive the vibration tests?

  • It's bad enough that we got NASA's junk now littering the Martian landscape, but now we have private individuals throwing junk cars up there.

  • An average person would have to work for years to buy that car (without eating while doing so). He will flaunt its destruction only to have people talk about him on twitter.
    • Tesla should just cut to the chase and launch 3,000 lbs of cash into space.... you know, for their investors.
  • What is sad is that 3000lbs of scientific experiments will not get done. Elon, if you want to practice heavy lifting, at least get some value out of it if it works. I thought you were smart. Smart people don't waste precious opportunities.

    • 3000 lbs of useful scientific experiments would easily cost as much as the rocket itself, cause extra scheduling grief, and have a very good chance of crashing in the ocean or exploding in the air.

    • Re:Waste (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <EnsilZah@ G m a i l . com> on Saturday December 02, 2017 @02:18PM (#55664401)

      Have you considered that the guy running the space launch company might have a better grasp of the logistics of what you're talking about than you?

      -That this is an experimental launch and they're trying to minimize potential losses.
      -Putting a Dragon capsule on top of it to send experiments to the ISS would be pointless because:
      A. It would double the price of the launch.
      B. part of the certification requirement for the government is for there to be a payload fairing on top of the rocket, and the capsule can't launch with one equipped.
      C. The capsule is already volume constrained so it wouldn't be able to carry any more than a regular launch, thus failing to demonstrate the heavy-lift capability (If the car is going to Mars, it would be light, but will have a much higher velocity).

      Or would you rather they wait a few years (decades?) for someone willing to build a heavy satellite that they don't mind losing?
      What they're doing is not letting a precious opportunity not go to waste.
      Where in any other test launch the payload would have been a block of metal mass simulator, they're doing something fun, something that will get people talking about space for decades, and some bonus advertising for his other company out of his own pocket.

      • No not necessarily. How about run a competition either at the HS or college level where students compete for a slot on the shot. 3K pounds could run 30 100lb experiments and get kids super excited about space.

        • What kind of college/HS kid is capable of designing a 100 lb probe that can operate in deep space, keep it solar panels aimed at the Sun, the parabolic dish aimed at the Earth, and can run autonomous experiments ? Oh, yeah, it needs to be ready to launch in a few months.

        • I'm not sure where you're getting this 3000lb figure, I'm assuming it's based on the weight of the car, but that's supposed to be heading for Mars at a high velocity, the payload capacity for low earth orbit is quoted to be 63,800kg (140,660 lb).
          And to 26,700kg (58,860 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit.

          Anyway, that's a lot of experiments and a lot of people involved, so you'd like them to delay the launch of a rocket that's already late by quite a few years by another couple of years, until all that is so

  • ... he launched a Tesla charging station into Mars orbit last year.

  • I remember some kind of rocket powered car cruising through space in the movie Heavy Metal ...
  • Elon Musk admits he made up the story about launching a roadster to mars. []

  • to launch junk in to space. God knows there is enough of it already up there.
    I agree with those who say launch something useful.

    So a tesla weights 1.4 tons, how about launching 1.4 tons of Ox, some type of fuel, Structural items, etc.
  • Falcon 9 payload to Mars is 4020kg. []
    Tesla Model S P100D is 2250kg. []
    Roadster 2020 [] will be a bit heavier but not twice as much. Falcon 9 has enough power to send the Roadster to Mars, Musk could choose some better demonstration of Falcon Heavy, such as sending a fleet of 5 Teslas.
  • Objects sent to Mars need to be COMPLETELY sterilized to avoid the chance of contaminating Mars with earth bacteria and possibly hiding any signs of independent development of life. I hope he doesn't actually do this stunt.

      In any case, even with a high chance of failure, payload to mars could be used for scientific or engineering experiments. Maybe an experimental atmosphere -> fuel processor, or maybe even a hail Mary at a sample return mission.

  • by nintendoeats ( 1370249 ) on Saturday December 02, 2017 @05:10PM (#55665051)

    Nuts to Tesla, lets be clear that the first production car in space is going to be, for all intents and purposes, a Lotus. Even better, a Lotus modified such that it is even simpler (if heavier) and would actually be able to drive on Mars. Crap, I want to go to Mars with an electric Lotus Seven and a space suit. This is really setting off the fantasies. Can we put Audrey Hepburn in the passenger seat?

  • ... if you like my ride!

    (Falcon 9 bumpersticker)

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.