Elon Musk plans to launch a Tesla Roadster to Mars orbit this week — and a new photo shows a dummy driver called ‘Starman’

  • SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled for Tuesday, February 6.
  • The initial launch payload is a Tesla Roadster – and Elon Musk posted an Instagram photo of the car with a dummy driver, called “Starman,” wearing the SpaceX spacesuit.
  • If the launch is successful, the Tesla could travel in its Mars orbit indefinitely.

The payload for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch on Tuesday keeps things within the Musk company family – it’s a midnight cherry-coloured Tesla Roadster.

If the launch is successful, the car will be sent towards Mars orbit.

“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk wrote in a previous Instagram post. “Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.”

“The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”

A red car for a red planet.

Early Monday, Musk posted new images of the payload to Instagram, and now the car appears to have a “driver” dummy wearing a SpaceX spacesuit.

“Starman in Red Roadster,” Musk wrote, a reference to the David Bowie hit.


A perfect payload

The Falcon Heavy rocket is SpaceX’s biggest and most powerful launcher, capable of carrying approximately 37,000 pounds to Mars (meaning the rocket could carry far more than the car).

SpaceX hasn’t said whether the “Starman” dummy in the photos will be making the journey. Although the company got FAA permission to send the Roadster toward Mars, it’s unlikely that “Spaceman” was included in that permit.

The spacesuits that SpaceX revealed in August 2017 are more than just mock-ups, though – they have been tested at double vacuum pressure, Musk reported at the time.

Musk has opted for other less-than-traditional rocket payloads in the past. A giant wheel of cheese got to make the journey into orbit when SpaceX first launched the Dragon spacecraft in 2010.

The Roadster will be carefully balanced inside the carbon fibre fairing – the top, payload-carrying part of the rocket – so that it doesn’t come loose and send the rocket askew.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Tesla roadster Elon Musk

Still, there’s a good chance the launch could fail and the rocket explode, as this system has yet to be launched but is the most powerful operational rocket on the planet, second only to the retired Saturn V.

The launch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 6, 2018, and will be broadcast live online, though it could always be delayed. If all goes well, the car could be floating around indefinitely, possibly outlasting humanity’s lifespan on Earth.

We can only hope that Bowie was right when he wrote the lyrics, “There’s a starman waiting in the sky, he’s told us not to blow it, cause he knows it’s all worthwhile.”