SpaceX made history yesterday, successfully launching the Falcon Heavy rocket that may one day be the vehicle that will take the first humans to Mars. So far, almost everything has gone well in the mission: the rocket has already passed the most difficult part of the journey and released the parties responsible for impelling it during its ascent from the Earth’s orbit.
Two of the parts that the rocket released have already been recovered. According to Engadget, they safely landed back at the Kennedy Space Center in a perfectly synchronized way, as can be seen in the GIF below. The central part of the rocket, however, was not so lucky. According to the company, it is not yet known what happened to her, but she probably missed the mark and was destroyed.
The rocket’s central rocket should have landed on an autonomous ship. But according to Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, he “obviously did not land on the ship.” According to him, the central part was without propellant and, because of this, could not reduce its speed sufficiently to land. Because of this, he missed the target in 100 meters and hit the water at about 480 kilometers per hour.
“It was enough to destroy the two boosters and water the deck of the ship with debris,” Musk said. According to the company’s CEO, the images of the accident are being recovered. “It seems to be a really fun stuff … if the cameras were not destroyed, too.” Even so, the company felt the launch was a huge success; recovering parts of the rocket, according to Engadget, is often a secondary goal for SpaceX.
Missed the target
There was another secondary objective in the mission: Musk sent a Tesla Roadster on the rocket and intended to have the car orbiting the red planet. To do this, the Falcon Heavy would do an orbital maneuver close to Earth and then fire its rockets one last time to accelerate to the speed needed to reach Mars.
But it seems that this last acceleration worked too well. According to The Verge, the Car will end up passing far from the orbit of Mars, and will continue flying towards the asteroid belt, passing near the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres. For now, it is still unclear what happened to the car.
Putting a Tesla car into the orbit of Mars was not just a marketing move for Musk. The idea was to show the Falcon Heavy’s ability to take objects to Mars and put them into orbit – a capability that could yield some contracts for SpaceX. On the other hand, as there are companies interested in mining asteroids in the future, knowing that the company can take an object there may be interesting to them.
Change of plans
This launch mission, successfully completed, made SpaceX change its plans for the future. For now, according to Musk, it will focus on the development of BFR – a rocket many times larger than the Falcon Heavy and which, in Musk’s view, will be the main interplanetary transport of humanity.
Then the company will also begin to develop a manned spacecraft called “Crew Dragon” – this is the spacecraft that the Falcon Heavy should help carry to Mars. In it will be the crew and cargo; the rocket is just the engine that will take the ship out of Earth orbit. The completion of these two projects is essential if the company is to meet its ambitious plan to bring humans to Mars from 2024.