After what felt like eons of hype, SpaceX officially launched its Falcon Heavy mega-rocket from launch pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:45 P.M. on Tuesday. Astonishingly, its maiden flight went much smoother than many had anticipated.
Image Credit: SpaceX/YouTube
It wasn’t long after the Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines fired up that the rocket took flight. It kicked up a lot more steam than a Falcon 9 rocket would, but the lift-off was just as majestic as we’d expect from the latter.
Once the space vehicle reached optimal altitude, its two side boosters detached from the central core and fell back to Earth to land on solid ground. Shortly after, the center core separated from the payload and fell back to Earth. It attempted to land on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean but didn't quite make it.
Despite having its engine power throttled down to just 92% of peak performance, the Falcon Heavy generated a respectable amount of thrust and launched its special payload into space – a red Tesla Roadster electric car with a spacesuit-wearing dummy sitting in the driver’s seat.
Cameras mounted all over the Tesla Roadster delivered live footage of outer space from all angles around the car. You can watch that stream below:
Given SpaceX’s fascination with Mars, the Tesla Roadster will head in that general direction. The car won’t ever land on Mars, but it will follow the red planet around for an eternity as it orbits the Sun.
Despite the loss of the Falcon Heavy's central core, the launch was was an impressive achievement for SpaceX and a significant step in the right direction for humankind. The space vehicle’s sheer power makes it into the ideal rocket for future Moon or Mars-based missions and its reusability could keep the price tag low enough to promote said missions.
These are indeed exciting times to be alive; especially if you have any interest in space exploration.