Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars

February 7, 2018 by Marcia Dunn
Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars
This image from video provided by SpaceX shows the company's spacesuit in Elon Musk's red Tesla sports car which was launched into space during the first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (SpaceX via AP)

The world's first space sports car is cruising toward the asteroid belt, well beyond Mars.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk confirmed the new, more distant route for his rocketing Tesla Roadster. The red electric convertible was the unorthodox cargo aboard his company's brand new Falcon Heavy rocket during a test flight on Tuesday.

With the successful launch, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket flying today.

And Musk's Roadster became the fastest car ever, hurtling off the planet and zooming away on a route that will now take it all the way to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Late Tuesday, Musk said the final firing of the rocket's upper stage put his car on a more distant trajectory than anticipated. Not only is it headed toward Mars, but almost to the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt.

A mannequin dressed in a "real deal" SpaceX spacesuit—dubbed "Starman" by Musk—is strapped in behind the car's wheel. Usually test flights carry nothing of value, like concrete blocks. Musk found that "boring" and put his cherry-red Tesla on top. He's in charge of the carmaker as well as the private space company.

Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars
A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Falcon Heavy, has three first-stage boosters, strapped together with 27 engines in all. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Images of the exposed Roadster and "Starman"—named after a David Bowie song—against the backdrop of our blue planet, were burning up the internet long after Tuesday's launch.

"I think it looks so ridiculous and impossible. You can tell it's real because it looks so fake, honestly," Musk said Tuesday night. "It's still tripping me out."

The Roadster is in an even more elongated orbit now that stretches from Earth on one end, all the way to the neighborhood of Ceres on the other. The original plan had the car traveling only as far as Mars, coming close to the red planet but hopefully not nicking it. If it survives the swarming asteroid belt, the car and its occupant are expected to continue orbiting for millions if not billions of years.

Like so many others, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold was awe-struck by the livestreaming of "Starman" and his ride. Arnold is preparing for his own ride to the International Space Station next month.

"Perfect day for a cruise in a ragtop," Arnold tweeted, offering congratulations to SpaceX. "Awesome! At this speed, two hands on the steering wheel please #Starman."

Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars
A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Falcon Heavy, has three first-stage boosters, strapped together with 27 engines in all. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

And Buzz Aldrin, second man to step onto the moon, also celebrated after watching the rocket soar "from my favorite launch pad." The Heavy lifted off from the same spot as NASA's now-retired but more powerful Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttles. The Heavy is a combo of three Falcon 9s, that SpaceX uses to ship space station supplies and launch satellites for its customers.

Mars is driving all of Musk's space efforts.

Musk said he doesn't plan to fly people on the Heavy—that will mainly be used to launch supersize satellites. But he's accelerating development of an even bigger rocket for deep-space crews—"a beast."

His overriding goal is to establish a city on Mars, sending people there in a flotilla of SpaceX spaceships launched by colossal SpaceX rockets. Before dashing off to the red planet, Musk said he'd want to try out this spaceship in orbit around Earth—possibly in three to four years with the supersize rocket—and then the moon.

At a news conference Tuesday night, Musk told reporters that as early as next year, he may begin test flights of the mega spaceship in Texas. These short hops would take the ship several miles high and then come back down for a landing. It's the landing part that's especially hard, he noted, especially at the speed the craft will be traveling when it comes in for a touchdown on another planet.

Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars
A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Falcon Heavy, has three first-stage boosters, strapped together with 27 engines in all. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Tuesday's success of the Heavy provides a confidence boost to these future plans, Musk said. Two of the three first-stage boosters flew back for side-by-side landings; the third was lost at sea.

Rocket recycling is the key to SpaceX's launch cost-cutting strategy. The Falcon Heavy is price-listed at $90 million, a bargain in the business of rockets.

The president of the Mars Society, a space advocacy group intent on exploring and settling Mars, cheered SpaceX's achievement—and reduced price. "This is a revolution," Robert Zubrin said in a statement. "The naysayers have been completely refuted."

In the meantime, with the Heavy demo out of the way, Musk said SpaceX is putting its commercial crew effort for NASA front and center. He said the company is still on track to launch astronauts in a SpaceX Dragon capsule, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, at the end of this year.

SpaceX is competing with Boeing to be the first to send Americans into orbit from U.S. soil again, something that hasn't happened since NASA's last shuttle flight. U.S. astronauts have been riding Russian rockets, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a seat, to get to the space station since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Space sports car now flying toward asteroid belt beyond Mars
This image from video provided by SpaceX shows the company's spacesuit in Elon Musk's red Tesla sports car which was launched into space during the first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (SpaceX via AP)

Musk noted that SpaceX used only internal funds to finance the Heavy, investing more than $500 million in developmental costs. He's hoping that will encourage other companies and countries "to raise their sights and say, hey, we can do bigger and better, which is great."

"We want a new space race," he said.

Explore further: SpaceX 'Starman' at wheel of sports car flying on new rocket

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TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2018
Alternative title: A roadster is heading for the beltway!
carbon_unit
4 / 5 (8) Feb 07, 2018
What a rocketgasm yesterday was. An enormous success for Space X, and a pants fouling experience for their competitors. The core booster reportedly failed to land because they were making their second attempt at a three engine landing and two engines did not ignite. The 300 mph splashdown almost sank the landing droneship. They are on a learning curve again.

The Tesla in Spaaaaaace was far more amazing than I'd thought it would be. Mindblowing views, like the one above of Earth reflecting off the body. Musk and crew are geniuses.
Cusco
1 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2018
"We want a new space race," he said.

Please, please, please . . .
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2018
I dunno. NASA put cars on the moon and drove them for 30 miles. I will be impressed when musk puts a roadster on mars and does donuts in the dust.

Which he probably will.
SamB
3.5 / 5 (6) Feb 07, 2018
Yes, Elon Musk for President!
(Can't be much worse than we have already! :{
Age-of-idiots
Feb 07, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2018
Wan't there a scene like this in "Heavy Metal"?
mxw
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2018
So Illuminati trillionaire living in Martian luxury penthouse wants a Tesla car ASAP, yeah no worries, on its way.
Guy_Underbridge
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2018
Wan't there a scene like this in "Heavy Metal"?
'58 Vette dropped out of the Shuttle

https://www.youtu...Pe3wF9jQ
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (7) Feb 08, 2018
PAthetic. The U.S. has to rely on a junkpile less powerful and less advanced than either the Saturn V or Shuttle. Either that, or keep goi ng begging hat in hand to the Russians to launch them to the orbiting $160B white elephant, the ISS.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2018
PAthetic. The U.S. has to rely on a junkpile less powerful and less advanced than either the Saturn V or Shuttle. Either that, or keep goi ng begging hat in hand to the Russians to launch them to the orbiting $160B white elephant, the ISS.
Guess you're not aware of musks BFR and bezos New Glenn, or even NASA's Space Launch System, or SLS, which will be the most powerful rocket in history.

Where do you live, dumfukistan?

And no, the shuttle was more powerful but it had less capacity because it had to put a shuttle in orbit. And no, musks design is cheaper and more powerful than current competitors because it uses kerolox rather than hydrolox or methalox.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2018
SamB, remember 1/2 of us prefer Trump to all others who ran. We also control the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court and 35 state legislatures.

MAGA!
Stevepidge
1 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2018
CGI. CGI. CGI. Computer Generated Imagery. This is fake fake fake. Remember the way light works in space makes things look like they have been video edited according to live science lol. So... a built in reason why their shenanigans look like CGI? Ok.

https://www.lives...ake.html

This is hilarious. A built in unverifiable mechanism of light that makes all space images look CGI. If you people believe this you are the dumbest of the dumb.
Guy_Underbridge
1 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2018
unverifiable mechanism of light
Video with unfiltered sunlight and no air... what's to verify? Jeez I hope these flat-earth trumpsters don't breed. Wishful thinking.

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