Elon Musk might come across as someone who tends to play the fool a lot of the time, but his latest creation is set to disrupt deep space exploration.
Whatever that means.
Since 2002, SpaceX’s goal has been to “develop the technology to make humanity a multi-planetary species,” reports Quartz.
Now, 16 years later, and the Falcon Heavy might just do that.
Lftoff has been scheduled for later today, happening at any time between 1:30PM and 4PM ET (8:30PM and 11PM local time) at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. If you aren’t able to get there, you can live-stream it here.
It’s the first vehicle with the “capability of taking a usefully large scientific robot—or even, in stages, a human exploration mission—beyond earth orbit, and to another astronomical body”:
“We can start to realistically contemplate missions like a Mars sample return—which requires quite a lot of lift capability because you’ve got to send a lander to Mars that still has enough propellant to return to Earth,” Musk said when he unveiled the concept for the vehicle in 2011. “It certainly opens up a wide range of possibilities, such as returning to the Moon and conceivably even going to Mars.”
Since that announcement, SpaceX has made its mark on the space exploration world with the Falcon 9.
Here’s what we know about the Falcon Heavy:
The Falcon Heavy rocket is as tall as a 20-story building, consisting of three cylindrical rocket boosters strapped side-by-side, with a total of 27 engines. Firing together, these engines burn liquid oxygen and highly-refined kerosene to provide more than 2,500 tons of force, lifting the vehicle and its cargo off the ground and into space.
It’s purpose is to put satellites and other “really big things” into orbit in deep space:
SpaceX estimates that it will be able to carry more than 63 metric tons to low-earth orbit a few hundred miles above the planet, or more than 16 metric tons to Mars, though it is not clear if these numbers represent the initial vehicle’s capabilities or its aspirations.
The rocket below – you can check a larger, vertical image of it here.
And get this: today’s launch will attempt to carry one of Elon Musk’s Tesla roadsters into orbit around Mars, a “joke cargo that’s more creative than the typical test-flight placeholder of a large tank of water or a concrete weight”.
Isn’t that space littering, though?
Read more about $90 million endeavour’s whys, whats and hows on CNN.
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