What kind of weird science-fictiony stuff is this?


The Falcon Heavy launched and the twin boosters landed. That’s a prosaic way to say it, but yeesh, you’ve got to see it to believe it.

That looks like something out of a 1970s SF movie.

Comments

  1. Larry says

    Watched live on the spacex feed. Seeing the two boosters land almost simultaneously and so perfectly was almost as exciting as seeing Armstrong step off the ladder onto the moon for the first time. Its now been about 20 minutes since the landing of the core was to have occurred and I haven’t seen the report of what happened. I hope it was as successful.

  2. davidnangle says

    That was powerful. The cargo was all showmanship, with a little bathos… but those landers… just shows you what math can get you.

  3. drivenb4u says

    It was indeed awesome and the highlight for me was those two boosters landing spot-on. Center core is probably lost – even if the camera on the drone ship stopped you know they have others watching the ship – or they would have shown it by now. Even still, a huge success.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The fate of the center booster is still not officially announced. So it likely failed in some way.
    My suspicion is that it got toastier (and toasted) during reentry due to being higher and faster prior to MECO compared to previous boosters that have been recovered.

  5. drivenb4u says

    I think it just plain missed the boat. Being the center stage it had some differences from the standard design and the flight dynamics were affected. But they have good data and will nail it next time.

  6. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But they have good data and will nail it next time.

    Don’t doubt you. Just stating the facts to date since it wasn’t a block 5 booster.

  7. komarov says

    Based on a slightly ambiguously worded article at space.com the third booster seems to have made it as well.

    SpaceX has now successfully landed Falcon-family rockets 24 times — three on this mission alone.

    Either way this is impressive. A first launch with a huge rocket without any hiccups plus the recovery of the boosters – well, two at least – is pretty damned good. I had wondered if we were going to see a cartwheel on the launchpad or maybe somersaulting boosters half-way up.

    ….

    I just wish SpaceX finally figured out how to build a soundproof cabin for their launch commentators. All that screaming makes it hard to understand what’s being said. *sigh*

  8. says

    The ’70;s? Nope, you’re too young, PZ. Except for the full color presentation, this vid is reminiscent of “B” space flicks at least as far back as the ’50’s. In those days, it was always the genius professor, accompanied by his beautiful adult daughter, and always a private, non-government-funded effort.

  9. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    i’m constantly amazed at this. Even at the turn of the century, a NASA study concluded that the electronics just wasn’t there for this. But now it is.

    My concepts of recovering booster stages always involved parachuting into the ocean or somehow sprouting wings and flying back to the cape. This kind of precision control never occurred to me. (Or having enough leftover propellant for that matter.)

    Well, in the late 50s/early 60s they tried fishing rockets out of the drink and static-firing their engines, with depressing results. Apparently dropping hot metal into cold water is a bad idea! Who knew?

  10. says

    In fact, those of us who were around for the introduction of Disneyland’s Rocket to the Moon in July of 1955, actually experienced a trip around Luna and a “tail-first landing” for the exchange of an “E” ticket.

  11. willj says

    Yeah, okay it’s real and it’s cool. But still, without FTL we’re confined to our local neighborhood. The Moon? Mars? Miserable. Don’t wanna go there except for scientific curiosity. We’ve been fed a diet of scifi that expects us to believe FTL is possible and the stars are our destiny. Right. That’s why we see so many other space-faring civilizations out there. At least no one questions Fantasy about the truth of its premises.

  12. says

    Meanwhile, a few days ago, two tribes struggled over an egg, grabbing and slamming eachother to the ground in a display of primitive aggression. They got much more attention.

  13. aziraphale says

    Battleaxe, sprouting wings might still be a better solution in the long run, with modern materials. The propellant used for landing make quite a dent in the payload to orbit. The brilliance of Musk’s idea is that it needs very little hardware in addition to what’s already there.

  14. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    @ Brian Pansky:

    Speaking for my generation, any “spaceship” that doesn’t look like a huge V-2 coming back and landing on its jets is a huge disappointment.

    A later generation would be disappointed at not taking off and landing on a runway like an airliner….

    Come on, Skylon!

  15. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Watching the live views of Starman with the Earth getting smaller and smaller is terrific, but Jeez Louise, the comments! The Flat-Earthers are out in force. Can we survive as a society with idiots like this running around loose?

  16. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    While watching this I noticed on a camera view of the Roadster inside. On the cars center screen in large letters the words “Don’t Panic” were being displayed. I think Adams might have liked that. Apropos.

  17. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    There’s a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the glove compartment.

  18. numerobis says

    CGI has gotten way better since the 1970s.

    About the centre core: apparently it slammed into the sea hard enough to damage the drone ship. Something about not enough engines lighting up on the landing burn.

  19. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Yeah, the narrative’s already forming: The whole thing was a complete failure because “Core?” “Core!” “Core!”

    Meanwhile, waiting for the restart about 6 hours after the last second stage cutoff–if the Van Allen belts haven’t fried the electronics, or too much liquid oxygen hasn’t evaporated. This may be an unprecedentedly long coast for a cryogenic stage; I’m coming up empty for an example.

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There’s a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the glove compartment

    . And allegedly a towel…

    About the centre core: apparently it slammed into the sea hard enough to damage the drone ship. Something about not enough engines lighting up on the landing burn.

    Saw an ABC News conference where Elon Musk appeared. IIRC, he said the center booster ran out of fuel, (most likely LOX), as their first assessment.

  21. birgerjohansson says

    Goebbels’ UFA film company made some first-class FX for moon space journeys.
    The Soviet director Klushantsev did great stuff predating Kubrick.
    The most interesting post-Apollo footage I have seen up until this double landing was fictional: The landning of the Nostromo (1979).

  22. heartwood says

    When I heard about the roadster being the payload, my first thought was the opening credits of “Heavy Metal: The Movie”. While watching the boosters land in synchronization, my only thought was “This is an SF movie like when I was young.” Absolutely none of it seems quite real. It seems less real than the moon landings I watched as a kid.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Adding aerodynamic surfaces big enough to land on a runway adds a lot to the weight/ reduces the payload considerably. The Shuttle orbiter weighed in at ca. 100 tons, for a payload of 20-30 tons depending on boosters and orbit.

  24. Stardrake says

    TheVerge.com reported that only one of the 3 engines needed for successfully landing on the drone ship lit off–so the center booster hit the water at 300 MPH, and blew up. It was close enough to wreck 2 engines on the barge. Still pretty good results for a first test flight!

  25. heartwood says

    This from the BBC:
    The third booster was due to settle on a drone ship stationed several hundred kilometres out at sea. Unfortunately, it had insufficient propellant left to slow the descent, missed the target vessel and was destroyed as it hit the water at some 500km/h.

  26. acroyear says

    For me, seeing the two in parallel landing was odd. It brought back memories of the 70s stock footage of two nuclear missiles launching for side-by-side silos, footage later used in The Day After and any number of other similar nuclear war scare films of the early 80s.

    So instead of two rocket weapons of extreme death (and self-destruction) launching, I see two rockets land in perfect peaceful synchronization, solely to be used in another peaceful mission in the future?

    Well, there we are.

    There are parts of the 20th Century I don’t miss. There are parts of the 21st Century that make me very content.

  27. brett says

    Thank goodness. Falcon Heavy has been delayed for a long time (I think he originally wanted to bring it out in 2012), so it’s good to finally see it launching.

    @willj

    But still, without FTL we’re confined to our local neighborhood.

    It’s a really big neighborhood.

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Reports indicate that the Falcon second stage attached to the Tesla fired a third time after 6 hours in orbit, and sent the car from an elliptical Earth orbit into a heliocentric orbit (Mars transfer orbit) with Earth’s orbital distance being the periapsis and Mar’s orbital distance being the apoapsis. It won’t go near Mars itself to prevent biological contamination of Mars. The timing of the firing also means Falcon Heavy can be used for putting satellites into direct geostationary orbit by the Air Force and other government agencies.

  29. says

    Oh, i waited for this launch for years know, and it did not disappoint. The three boosters firing, the doppel landing, Don’t Panic and we even got an explosion. Mark me as happy :)

  30. lanir says

    A friend linked the Starman feed to me without explanation. Took me a bit to realize it wasn’t photoshopped. I don’t think anyone would bother to get the lighting right along with the reflection of the Earth.

    The car thing was a downer on all the rest though. As the crowning achievement of a relatively new company doing something no one else has done before, this was the best thing they could think of? Having the rich CEO show off that not only can he abandon a sportscar most of us can’t afford to own, but he can pay extra to abandon it in space? Ugh. I’m inspired, alright.

  31. davidc1 says

    You lot are a bunch of silly twits ,can’t you see that it is just video of the launch played backwards .
    I spotted it straight away .

  32. Akira MacKenzie says

    The 90s, they were experimenting with SSO (Single Stage to Orbit) concept vehicle starting with the DC-X concept. I myself was enthralled by the concept, hoping it would become the next step in space exploration. As I recall they had some initial success with the test vehicle taking off a short distance then landing. However, the prototype crashed before any further testing could occur and the plug was pulled from the program. However, it seems that not all was lost after all.

  33. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    @ chigau:

    In the live chat on the Starman video, somebody said that anybody could see this was fake, because if a car went that fast, its wheels would be spinning so fast they’d fly apart. We can’t put anything over on these guys–they’re too smart for us!

  34. rietpluim says

    In some respect, Musk is being very successful. After all, recreating vintage SF series is exactly what SpaceX is about.

  35. KG says

    Worth noting that, although its boosters weren’t reusable, the Saturn V, more than half a century ago, could lift around 118 tons to low Earth orbit, compared to 64 tons for Musk’s “heavy lift” rocket.

  36. says

    @lanir #35: I found it hilarious. The sheer absurdity of a car in orbit is priceless. It sure beats Russell’s Teapot, doesn’t it?
    Besides, a car is a pretty common metric.

  37. Derek Vandivere says

    #35 / Lanir: If the big “Don’t Panic” sign and the news that there’s meant to be a copy of the book AND a towel in the glove box don’t make you squee at least a little bit, I think you may be beyond help.

    And look on the bright side: it could have been a blue whale and a flowerpot.

  38. manymistakes says

    Just as exciting as the launch and landing of the Falcons was the incredible enthusiasm and joyful outbursts of the onlookers, who I assume were SpaceX engineers and others involved in the project. The fantastic scene surrounded with all the ecstatic emotion was awesome and really uplifting!

  39. nikolai says

    birgerjohansson wrote:

    Adding aerodynamic surfaces big enough to land on a runway adds a lot to the weight/ reduces the payload considerably. The Shuttle orbiter weighed in at ca. 100 tons, for a payload of 20-30 tons depending on boosters and orbit.

    Yes, but it’s also important to note that the Shuttle had large wings in part because NASA was being required to play nice with the DoD while designing the thing, and the DoD wanted wings large enough for a certain cross-range capability that the original Shuttle designs did not possess. (They never ended up actually using said cross-range capability.)

    Any extra mass, and the rocket equation just decimates you.

  40. says

    Derek Vandivere #45:

    #35 / Lanir: If the big “Don’t Panic” sign and the news that there’s meant to be a copy of the book AND a towel in the glove box don’t make you squee at least a little bit, I think you may be beyond help.

    I feel obliged to support Lanir in this. Sure, the technological accomplishment is great. But shooting a sportscar into space, with some book and a bloody towel? Really? It’s about the most useless stunt imaginable. If the idea was that they couldn’t risk a multi-million dollar/euro/whatevs satellite payload on a test flight, why not invite a group of students to build something for next to nothing that could still potentially send back useful data of some kind?

    I read that the car is supposed to stay in solar orbit indefinitely. I suppose it’s Mr. Musk’s more permanent version of a “Kilroy was here” graffiti. What an egotistical dick.

  41. bojac6 says

    #43 – KG – Sure, it’s half the payload, but it’s also 1/10th the price of a Sat V, which is the real achievement here.

    #35 Lanir – Most rockets test with a dummy payload, usually tons of concrete. They went with something a bit more interesting. As a percentage of launch costs, the Tesla was next to nothing.

  42. says

    manymistakes #47:

    Just as exciting as the launch and landing of the Falcons was the incredible enthusiasm and joyful outbursts of the onlookers, who I assume were SpaceX engineers and others involved in the project. The fantastic scene surrounded with all the ecstatic emotion was awesome and really uplifting!

    Such displays of groupthink always give me cold shivers. No really, I think it is frightening. You can get people to do anything if you can get them this “ecstatic”.

    Yes, I do tend to avoid crowds and gatherings, before someone accuses me of not being the life of the party.

  43. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Dunc @ 46,

    Sperm whale. And a bowl of petunias.

    Oh no, not again.

  44. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Evidently SpaceX programmed the last firing of the second stage to “burn to completion”, essentially use up almost all its fuel except what is needed for a safe shutdown. They use this on supersynchronous geotransfer missions, where the higher the apogee, the less fuel is needed for the inclination change to 0º.
    So the final orbit aphelion goes beyond the orbit of Mars (~230,000,000 km) out to 390,000,000 km, putting it in the asteroid belt.

  45. weylguy says

    The huge plumes of nitrogen oxide gases released during landing reminded me that our “space travel” technology is based on 1,000-year-old Chinese chemical propellants, hardly worthy of our glorious aspirations to “conquer the universe.”

  46. David Marjanović says

    @38 Can’t spot a funny when you see one ?

    No, why? Comparable, indeed much stupider, claims have often been proclaimed in all seriousness. It’s called Poe’s Law: there is no way to write satire that can’t be mistaken for the real thing. Half of the archives of Pharyngula consist of nothing but comments on just such claims that were meant seriously.

    The only way anybody could tell you didn’t mean what you said would be to know you personally pretty well. You’ve misjudged your audience in that respect.

  47. Ragutis says

    I believe there’s copies of Asimov’s Foundation series onboard as well. Well cool, IMHO. Although, I did notice on the Spaceman feed some serious scratches on the drivers side door. I wonder if they were there prior to launch, occurred during separation, or did the Tesla already get dinged by space debris? Hoping to find some nice wallpapers of the car with Earth in the background soon.

    Things like this make me hopeful for our future. Briefly. These days that rarely lasts more than 12 or 24 hours. Hey anyone hear about that awesome military parade we’re going to have in Red Square, ahem, I mean down Pennsylvania Avenue?

    And since the loss of text formatting toolbar, I’d appreciate someone letting me know how to do italics, bold, strike, etc nowadays.

  48. says

    Cross posted from the Political Madness All the Time thread.

    Trump congratulated Elon Musk on the successful test of the Falcon Heavy rocket:

    Congratulations @ElonMusk and @SpaceX on the successful #FalconHeavy launch. This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best!

    Elon Musk is an immigrant from South Africa. He stayed in the U.S. on an H1-B visa after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School with degrees in physics and economics. In other words, Elon Musk is from one those countries identified by Trump as “shithole countries.”

    Trump’s latest immigration proposal adds new inspection requirements for H1-B visas, including many pages of background documentation that will slow down or curtail immigration.

    “It’s not unusual in the world of immigration to get a request for evidence, but this one is being sent to everyone who applies,” William Brah, director of the Venture Development Center at University of Massachusetts Boston, told The Boston Globe in December. “We’re not sure what the rationale is other than slowing down immigration.”

    Elon Musk became an American citizen in 2002. From Musk in January, 2017:

    The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.

    Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the US. They’ve done right,not wrong & don’t deserve to be rejected.

    Musk was a member of Trump’s policy council and of the manufacturing council until he resigned in June, 2017. He resigned to protest Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

  49. says

    Ragutis #57:

    I’d appreciate someone letting me know how to do italics, bold, strike, etc nowadays.

    Some basic HTML tags seem to work, e.g.:

    Italic: <i>text</i> or <em>text</em>
    Bold: <b>text</b> or <strong>text</strong>
    Strikethrough: <s>text</s> or <del>text</del>
    Blockquote: <blockquote>text</blockquote>
    Link: <a href=url>text</a>

  50. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ragutis #57
    I too lament the loss of text formatting toolbar.
    While not a direct replacement, a Firefox add-on named Edit 1.1 has some of the functions. Doing a blockquote requires first cutting and pasting the material, highlighting it, then clicking the quote button in edit (in html, not bbcode), then using the find/replace to a q into blockquote. Fortunately, the find/replace keeps the last stuff in memory.
    Doing a URL embedded in text requires more work too. I write the text, then position the cursor at the front of the text, hit the url button, and the a code appears. Move the cursor to the middle of the quotation marks, and paste in the url. Then cut the end tag and paste it at the end of your text.

  51. Rob Grigjanis says

    David @56:

    You[davidc1]’ve misjudged your audience in that respect.

    Maybe we should take a poll. I’m guessing most readers took it as a joke.

  52. says

    Rob Grigjanis @61: The eccentric punctuation led me to think it was probably a flat-earther troll rather than a gag. Prejudice, I’ll admit, but add me to the group who think a gag should be well enough executed to make it clear it’s a gag.

  53. Rob Grigjanis says

    NelC @62: I also recognized the ‘nym as that of a regular (and reasonable) commenter, so there is that. As to “well executed”, mileage varies with that too, I guess.

  54. says

    So this plucky entrepreneur stages a very good launch of an obviously well-built rocket — and then uses it to shoot a perfectly good car to Mars, where it will only be a lot of expensive garbage littering another planet’s landscape. If this is the private sector in space, then we need to revive NASA and retake space from frivolous one-percenters.

  55. says

    Hopefully Musk doesn’t turn out to be Hugo Drax or Karl Stromberg. Anyone know if he owns a bunch of land in South America, or a giant sea villa?

  56. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    and then uses it to shoot a perfectly good car to Mars, where it will only be a lot of expensive garbage littering another planet’s landscape.

    Raging Bee #65, the Tesla is not going to the planet Mars, nor was that ever the plan. It was going into a heliocentric orbit with Earth’s orbital distance as the perihelion, and Mars’ orbital distance as the apehelion, probably inclined to avoid hitting Mars. Actually, it goes past Mars’ orbit distance out to the asteroid belt before returning (see my #53).

  57. says

    it´s more like a 1981 weird science ficion movie! After i Found about the Telsa car un space I remembered this Sci-fi classic

    Heavy metal, the movie. 1981.

  58. says

    @Akira The SSTO concept at the time (following on from the DC-X) was the VentureStar X-33. The program failed when they had manufacturing issues with the composite propellant tanks, and the aerospike engine was unproven.

    For the Falcon core landing, only one of the three engines ignited for the final burn. But since one was burning and all three are fed from common propellant tanks it didn’t really run out of ‘fuel’. Actually, they ran out of ‘lighter fluid.’ TEA-TEB are hypergolic fluids that ignite on contact. They are fed to the engine to provide the spark to ignite it, which you can sometimes see as a green flash just before engine ignition. Due to the multiple re-ignitions, the core ran out of either TEA or TEB. It’s an easy fix that they certainly won’t repeat.

  59. davidc1 says

    Re my original post ,yes it was meant as a joke .The fact that the big thing that took off is not the same thing as wot came back might have given people a clue that i was joking .
    Christ on a bike ,some days it is not worth getting out of bed .

  60. davidc1 says

    @56 wrote” there is no way to write satire that can’t be mistaken for the real thing.”
    Wot about” Animal Farm ” by Eric Blair ?.

  61. DLC says

    Am I the only one who heard music from Thunderbirds international rescue during the twin landing ? (No, not saying it was fake, but Gerry Anderson had some cool toys)