As discussed previously, rocket launches have become routine. Without Cold War motivations (don’t worry, they’re coming back), and the line Kennedy drew in the sand,rocket launches have changed from monumental occasions the whole nation watched to routine research and commercial ventures that launch every week. Many had forgotten what a truly awe-inspiring rocket launch felt like. Until this week.
Space X, the aerospace manufacturer owned by (hopefully) NOT evil genius Elon Musk, launched their latest rocket, the Falcon Heavy (great, we’re even body shaming rockets now). The Falcon Heavy is essentially a beefed-up version of the tried-and-true Falcon 9, capable of delivering 64 metric tons (140,000 lbs) into low earth orbit or 16 metric tons (37,000 lbs) to Mars. This makes it the largest rocket launched since the Saturn V of Apollo mission fame. Extremely impressively, it has booster rockets that can safely land back on Earth (the center rocket was also supposed to but uh, didn’t), so it’s essentially reusable, which significantly cuts the price of operation. This adds to the total number of round-earther rockets, which is over 7,000, compared to the flat-earther score of 0.
Now gravity is a relatively weak force. A household magnet can overcome it. But something as massive as the Earth provides a hell of a lot of it. The challenge of lifting large payloads comes from the fact that it requires a lot of fuel. And fuel is heavy. So the rocket is bigger. Which requires more fuel. And so on. This is called the tyranny of the rocket equation, and results in rockets needing to be massive to lift their payload—as much as 85% of the rocket is fuel. So the fact that the Falcon Heavy to be able to lift more than twice the next largest rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, is truly remarkable. The practical applications of this is that keeping human beings alive is hard, and requires more heavy equipment and supplies. The ultimate goal of the Falcon Heavy is to transport humans to Earth’s moon and Mars; Musk has even claimed that it can reach Pluto.
Musk had previously stated that the odds of a successful first launch of a new rocket were about 50-50, but he won the toss this week. The payload—his own personal bright red Tesla roadster piloted by a mannequin in a space suit jamming to Bowie—was successfully launched into an elliptical orbit around the sun, extending past Mars. Oh, oh god. I HOPE that was a mannequin in that suit. Has anyone checked on Jeff Bezos?