Elon Musk Mars Plan Goes From Red Dragon to Red Tesla

In the wake of cancelling plans to launch a Red Dragon to Mars next year, Elon Musk now wants to send his red Tesla into orbit around the planet next year on the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy booster. The launch is set for next month from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    I could offer my Ford Fiesta in it’s place!

  • therealdmt

    It’s good to be a billionaire

  • SamuelRoman13

    True to form, Musk and SciFi. A Star Trek Voyager had an episode where they came upon a 1938 Ford pickup in space. A farmer had been abducted by aliens and been transported in stasis in his truck to a nearby planet. Amelia Erhart also(she said she was spying on the Japanese). The ’38 was found by other abuctee’s and left in stasis. They put the truck into space and kept the radio going as a beacon.
    Why not send an old roadster? The batteries probably need replacing anyway making it nearly worthless. At least a hybrid has an engine to keep going. Musk ought to just use Falcon Heavy for his Mars plans and get going on a small outpost on Mars.

  • Douglas Messier

    My big concern is Falcon Heavy explodes on or just above the pad. Then it takes a year or more to get it back in operation. And the first Dragon flight with crew gets delayed into 2019,

  • Malatrope

    I love it! I hope he actually does this (we will see). Nobody in aerospace has the sense of humor and style of Elon Musk!

  • Kirk

    It is unclear now if it was all just a joke. The Verge is reporting that after initially confirming it, Mr. Musk later told them that he “totally made it up.” I don’t know what to think as such an announcement seems four month premature.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Anyone here remember Project Echo? The 135 ft inflatable balloon NASA launched in the 1960’s? I imagine the Falcon Heavy could launch one a kilometer in diameter.

    It would get folks attention and would be great fun to track 🙂

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Yar, it’s his rocket and his choice. And I find his silly side amusing. But there are probably some semi-useful payloads out there who would take a chance on a test flight. Celestis and USAFA were willing to take a chance on Falcon 1.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    I’m a little confused. Wouldn’t a Mars orbit insertion require some kind of braking maneuver? My quick glance the Wikipedia articles for FH and the Roadster is FH can put 16,800 kg on Mars, the Roadster weighs 1,305 kg. Seems like a waste of payload if that’s the *only* thing they’re putting in there.

  • Kirk

    Regarding the strange reports coming from the Verge, it looks like this
    (2008 Roadster payload for FH demo launch) is for real, and it is
    unclear what the context of the “totally made it up” message was which
    lead them to thinking it was all joke.

    Phil Plait has some more
    details, specifically about it being sent not into an orbit around
    Mars, but “a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun”.

    http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/elon-musk-on-the-roadster-to-mars

  • ReSpaceAge

    That is why NASA has two companies doing commercial crew.

    I recall you whining about SpaceX trying to launch to many payloads this year.

    Space launch is not for the faint of heart.

    Taking risks is the only way forward.

    Then you complain when they don’t make their projections.

    I expect SpaceX will take their time making sure Falcon Heavy clears the pad safely and they will get their silly car up there playing music in Space.

    Also I think launching the car is a great cheap memorable idea. That allows them to keep their eye on BFR development. You are aware that Elon changed his plans from Red Dragon because he wanted to go all in on BFR yet you seem to suggest that SpaceX has in some how failed because it has taken longer than originally projected.

    Seems to me they are doing a dam good job with there priorities, their risk management and their schedule.

    Still leading the pack after all.

  • Robert G. Oler

    if true this is goofy

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Wait and see.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    It happens, it happens. It won’t change our life patterns much…And I doubt anyone will get killed; at least for the debut FH launch attempt.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    You will get a lot of amateur and pro astronomers angry….very angry. They will do more than push you out of their social circles. Because? Because a one-kilometer diameter balloon-sat will be at least -12 Magnitude in brightness; about the same as the a crescent moon.

  • Terry Stetler

    It’s clear now. SpaceX has confirmed it to Ars and others.

    The only question now is if the Man in Black cowboy dummy from the Grasshopper 1.0 days is going to be riding in the left seat.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Only if it stays in Earth orbit long, but my understanding is that the payload will reach escape velocity.

  • SamuelRoman13

    Good point on crew. Someone that was fast could build an access arm and use pad 40. Delta heavy has not had much trouble doing a 3 rocket launch. They will run it up, where it could blow up,(I think they could and should use Pad 40 to launch the 1st heavy)which might take several tries. There is no reason not to assume once it takes off it will be ok until MAD. I hope they kick it out toward water as soon as it leaves the pad. This will keep it from falling on the pad if the engines quit. Look at the all launch angles video of Ares1-X and you will see a huge kick sideways as it heads down range.

  • Kirk

    Yeah, it turns out that by “Mars orbit” he didn’t mean “orbit around Mars”, but instead an orbit which intersects the orbit of Mars (what would be a Mars transfer orbit if phasing was right), or in his own words, “a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun”.

  • ThomasLMatula

    This would be a great opportunity to demonstrate a Mars Cycler as part of a Mars infrastructure.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I hope SX is making some provision for solar power and communications of some sort. This would be a great opportunity for SX to start extending it’s capabilities into the things needed for a interplanetary civilization like communications. SX sports several multi-meter diameter tracked and slewable communications dishes. If they sport xceivers in the 2m band and low baud rate modems, oh say as low as 10 baud or so, those small dishes might be able to maintain communications with something as far out as Mars. I’ll run the numbers, as I’m thinking about this off the cuff. The main thing I get out of this is for all Space X’s talk about going to Mars in 4 years there seems to be so much missing from the long list of support capabilities that the opportunity slot created by the test flight of FH is a prank. I would push for filling a Dragon 1 capsule with Dragon 2 electronics and send it on a free return trip to the Moon, then see if that heat shield holds up to Lunar/Interplanetary re-entry trajectories.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    I share Doug’s concern, and to be clear, neither of us said “don’t launch Falcon Heavy!”. There is real risk to the pad that would result in a months-long delay for pad repairs – we’re at 15 months following the Amos-6 explosion, and Falcon Heavy has 3x the potential energy. If I’m benevolent dictator, I say restoring domestic crewed launch capability is a higher priority than heavy-class launch vehicle.

  • Douglas Messier

    “Taking risks is the only way forward.”

    One first needs to think through the risks. You clearly haven’t done that. You are failing to take Elon at his word that there’s a real chance of failure on or above the pad and thinking through the possible consequences.

    That is why NASA has two companies doing commercial crew.”

    This argument works best when you have two companies actually up and running. That way if one has a problem the other can continue providing service. You also don’t have all your eggs in Soyuz.

    In the meantime, while they’re still in development, anything that delays either program is a serious problem. Pad 39A goes down for a year or more, SpaceX can’t complete both flight tests, it can’t complete certification, and it can’t begin commercial flights to the space station. It could probably launch the automated flight from Pad 40, then it’s waiting around while they repair damage to the launch pad.

    If this is accompanied by further delays in Boeing’s Starliner (which are likely, from what I’m hearing), then all commercial crew missions could be delayed until mid- or late 2019. We only have access to Soyuz seats until mid-2019.

  • Jan Bach Andersen

    You can look at this from to sides ,seen from NASA’s side it clearly would bee better if they waited..But if you look at it from spacex side ,they have to lunch at some point after all this work . And if the rocket have to explode maybe better sooner than later before Dragon 2 is all ready..now they stil have a chance to minimise the delay instead of waiting on it to bee all done

  • Emmet Ford

    Mars Roadster

  • Jacob Samorodin

    I thought of something else! What if?…a little trajectory/velocity deviation here, a little gravitational nudge from a 3rd body there (in the coming centuries), then that Roadster may end up receiving a “gravitational boost” from the Red Planet, in the next millennia, and maybe an additional one from Jupiter later on, and that Roadster is then “off to the stars”…for the Klingons to find. LOL.

  • perilun

    I recall the Soviets sent their Space Shuttle up once, no crew, then they mothballed the program. I wonder if FH success is more of a problem then a benefit if they really want to do the BFR. I still wonder why FH has been such an problem given the 3 booster configuration has been operational for over twenty years. Maybe too few engineers to work the issue? Maybe too little demand for this class of rocket to be worth the trouble? Of course they can pull a Zuma and yank the flight at the last minute to be rescheduled … someday?

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Wrong. This is a feature not a bug of commercial crew. Providers have many steak-holders and customers to service not just one god to bend over backwards to satisfy. The latter drives huge inefficiencies and stupid products that have no broader application. As we say in tech, never get in front of the revenue train.

    This is exactly why they have multiple providers plus backup of using the Russians which is status quo. As hard as it is to understand for many, commercial crew is not the only thing going on in the world (its long term importance is quite negotiable actually) and really just another means to an end. What makes commercial relationships work is not perfection or 100% obedience, what makes them work are both sides feel they are getting a good enough return on the deal (Neither side is monogamous here). That is GOOD, because it breaks the back of cost plus requirements creep and priority shenanigans that wreck the commercial applicability of company/work product.

  • therealdmt

    “I would push for filling a Dragon 1 capsule with Dragon 2 electronics and send it on a free return trip to the Moon, then see if that heat shield holds up to Lunar/Interplanetary re-entry trajectories.”

    I was hoping for something along those lines too. Prove out and get experience with a lunar flight and return. I guess part of the problem there is that it would look like too much of a failure of that kind of flight/revenue stream if something went wrong.

    By sending a Tesla to Mars, Musk simultaneously
    1) has no serious payload or mission profile at risk – they’re really just testing out the rocket itself
    2) is, in these Moon-focused times, redirecting people’s attention back to Mars, which has always been Elon’s preferred destination and ultimate goal
    3) is demonstrating the immense power of the Falcon Heavy, by which
    4) the usefulness of SLS (a competitor) is going to be called into question by others, and
    5) gets massive free publicity for his other big venture, Tesla

    So, it makes sense for him. Plus, he’s having fun with it — if the guy needs to indulge in some wackiness to stay engaged, why not.

    Still, if it were up to me, like you, I’d have tested a Dragon out around the Moon

  • therealdmt

    Wrong. Romulans will ALWAYS beat the Klingons to the prize!!

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    “If I’m benevolent dictator”

    This is why we don’t have dictators run centralized planned economics. Everyone thinks they have the right priorities in mind for someone else. Actually market actors define their priorities (which is good).

    If NASA wanted dedicated HSF capability with no other responsibilities, they have it. And what useless and expensive pile it is. NASA could have scaled Orion to be a bit smaller and put on EELV launcher years ago, but no, instead they scaled it purposely to put out of practical reach for EELV for competitive operations to the ISS. Just like the grain rotting in the field of your dictatorship.

  • Jeff2Space

    The three booster configuration has been around for a long time, but SpaceX hasn’t done it yet. Separation of boosters from a core stage that’s still firing can be a bit tricky. So this first test flight’s success isn’t a given.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    “If I’m benevolent dictator” is popular figure of speech. I think you took it (too) personally.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, if NASA really had saw CCP as a priority they wouldn’t be putting unreasonable safety standards on it and would fund it at a higher level. Many at NASA would probably be happy to see a F9H failure and SpaceX being delayed with CCP as well. It would put their SLS/Orion in a better light 🙂

  • ThomasLMatula


    Yes, if it is successful it will really get the media’s attention. Great marketing for both SpaceX and Tesla!

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-04/elon-musk-isn-t-joking-about-sending-a-tesla-to-mars

    Elon Musk Isn’t Joking About Sending a Tesla to Mars

    By Dana Hull

    December 4, 2017, 3:00 AM CST

    “This is how the founder, chief executive officer, and largest shareholder of both SpaceX and Tesla Inc. does cross-marketing promotion. He has even coined a tagline for the event: “Red car for a red planet.”

  • AdmBenson
  • Richard Malcolm

    The real issue, then isn’t Red Tesla, it’s the decision to launch Falcon Heavy from the same launch pad (39A) which Crew Dragon is expected to use.

    And that of course was at least as much NASA’s decision as it was SpaceX’s, since it’s their paunch pad. They could have vetoed the FH launch from 39A. Apparently they thought the risk was small enough that they could live with it.