There were many things that could’ve gone wrong with the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in current operation and the first to use three reusable boosters. But incredibly, nothing major did. That means there’s a Tesla Roadster flying through space right now.
Falcon Heavy took off from the Apollo 11 launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:45 pm EST on Tuesday. The booster separation went smoothly, with two of the rockets coming back down to Earth and landing in near perfect synchrony.
At press time, the status of the third booster, which was set to land on a drone barge in the Atlantic Ocean, is unknown. Shortly after booster separation, the payload fairing split open to reveal the space suit-wearing “Starman” mannequin behind the wheel of the Roadster.
The plan now, according to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, is for the Roadster to “spend 5 hours getting zapped in Van Allen belts & then attempt final burn for Mars.”
Previously, Musk said the Roadster would eventually end up in a 1-billion-year elliptical orbit around Mars, but a source tells us it will actually be sent out to the general distance from the sun where Mars orbits and be left to drift. That way it will never get close enough to the planet to get pulled in by its gravity.
Upper stage restart nominal, apogee raised to 7000 km. Will spend 5 hours getting zapped in Van Allen belts & then attempt final burn for Mars.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
You can watch a live stream of Starman’s progress in the video below, and catch the full launch in the video below that (skip ahead to the 29-minute mark for the start of the action).