SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch 'a true turning point in our journey into space'
The launch was full of suspense and drama. It was delayed by a couple of hours due to high winds, but then at 3:45pm the three rocket boosters, with 27 powerful engines, lit simultaneously, and the huge rocket lifted into the sky. For SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, it was a great relief. He'd constantly downplayed expectations for this test launch and had been imagining the worst case scenario. "I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, with a wheel bouncing down the road and a Tesla logo landing somewhere with a thud" he said in a press conference after the launch.
That was a reference to the payload being carried by the Falcon Heavy into space. Enclosed in the fairing at the top of the 20-story rocket was Musk's own cherry-red Tesla roadster. The test flight was too risky for a real payload like a satellite. So in a moment of inspired whimsy, Musk decided to launch his car into space, complete with a dummy driver in a custom space-suit. The pictures of the car and "driver" in the blackness of space, with the Earth behind them, have gone around the world, and already become an internet meme.
Perhaps the more more important accomplishment by SpaceX was symbolized by the spectacular simultaneous landing at the Kennedy Space Centre of the two side boosters about eight minutes after launch. These boosters had separated from the central core a few minutes after launch, then reversed course, and guided themselves back for perfect twin touchdowns. As Elon Musk said, "It was epic. I think that was the most exciting thing I've ever seen - literally ever."