MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The past met the future at Kennedy Space Center Tuesday, as the same launch pad that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon sent the SpaceX’s unmanned Falcon Heavy rocket on one small step to Mars.
After several hours of wind-related delays, nothing could stop the first-ever launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy — the most powerful rocket on the planet right now.
Amid a rock-concert like atmosphere of rowdy fans, echoes of the golden age of spaceflight spread across TV and social media.
In the launch, 27 of SpaceX’s Merlin engines, in groups of nine and mounted on three engine cores, had the lifting power to send a fully-loaded 737 into orbit.
The payload: SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster.
In the driver’s seat was Starman, a mannequin in a real SpaceX spacesuit. On the sound system: David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” on a continuous loop.
Musk doesn’t deny the gimmick, but if SpaceX can launch a car into deep space, the goal of delivering astronauts to the moon or beyond is within reach.
But wait, there’s more.
Two of the three Falcon Heavy engine cores returned to earth following the launch, and simultaneously stuck their landings at Kennedy Space Center.
The main engine core was going too fast to land back at Kennedy Space Center. It was supposed to land on a drone barge about 300 miles off the east coast of Florida, but we’re still waiting to hear how that went.
If you’re wondering about NASA, well, don’t count them out.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is under development and expected to launch in December 2019
It will be about 10 percent more powerful than the Falcon Heavy and will be another option to get astronauts back to the moon or to Mars.