In one of the most weird and wonderful achievements in mankind’s chequered history, Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme has fired a car into space.
His own original Tesla Roadster, complete with a space-suited mannequin called Starman, a soundtrack of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on repeat, and the words ‘Don’t Panic!’ taken from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and written on the car’s infotainment screen, is now making its way around the inner reaches of the solar system. Incredible.
As legacies go, this one kind of puts dodgy Tesla Model 3 shut lines in the shade. The Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off from Florida in the middle of the afternoon and shot a perfect arc into orbit, splitting from its booster rockets – which then, graceful as synchronised swimmers, floated back down to a predetermined landing zone, touching the ground at almost exactly the same time.
The third booster was meant to land on a remote floating landing pad but ran out of propellant and ended up crashing, so this wasn’t quite a perfect 6.0 score, but the idea clearly works.
As well as the nods to Bowie and The Hitch Hiker’s Guide, SpaceX also printed a message reading ‘Made on Earth by Humans’ on a circuit board aboard history’s most unlikely space craft.
Starman and his Tesla could be in their elliptical orbit around the Sun and Mars for millions of years, or long after we’ve successfully ruined the planet, blown it up altogether or annoyed some other species enough to make them blow it up.
And all that will be left of our civilisation for future space archaeologists from across the galaxy to find will be a few fragments of TV network satellites and a dummy in an electric sports car, repeatedly being flung by gravity for some unknown and unfathomable reason between a small and lonely star and a tiny red planet.
To them, we say: good luck figuring that one out, guys.