The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.
For SpaceX, the private rocket company run by Elon Musk, it was a mostly triumphant test of a new, larger rocket designed to hoist supersize satellites as well as equipment to the moon, Mars or other far-flung points. For the test flight, a red sports car made by another of Musk’s companies, Tesla, was the unusual cargo, enclosed in protective covering for the launch.
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The most powerful rocket in operation
Its projected path will bring it close to Mars. There is a tiny chance it might crash into the planet. If it stays on course, it will instead drift through space, potentially for millions of years.
On Tuesday afternoon, a rocket the size of a 20-story building, containing 27 engines and a cherry-red Tesla Roadster as its payload, is slated to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the maiden flight of Space X’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket to launch in 45 years, since NASA’s Saturn V, which last flew in 1973.
The photograph was beamed down to Earth courtesy of Elon Musk’s ego, bravado and taste for the absurd. It is human folly and genius rolled into one, a picture that sums up 2018 so far. Life on Earth feels precarious, so we look to the stars.
Two of the boosters— both recycled from previous launches—returned minutes after liftoff for on-the-mark touchdowns at Cape Canaveral. Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the vertical landings.
Musk later revealed the third booster, brand new, slammed into the Atlantic at 300 mph and missed the floating landing platform, scattering shrapnel all over the deck and knocking out two engines.
Amazon’s Bezos heads Blue Origin, which is developing a big, reusable orbital-class rocket and already is making suborbital flights in Texas.
“Woohoo!” Bezos said in a congratulatory tweet.