SpaceX chief Elon Musk plans to fly his own sports car to Mars

Space entrepreneur Elon Musk plans to launch his most powerful rocket in the New Year – to send a bright red sports car to Mars, playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

An artist’s impression of the Falcon Heavy in flight immediately after launch. Image credit: SpaceX

The SpaceX CEO, who also builds electric cars, wants to put a Tesla Roadster somewhere near the orbit of the Red Planet.

Musk’s company has already developed and flown Falcon 9 rockets that can carry supplies to the International Space Station and with booster stages that can land themselves after launch.

In February, SpaceX will launch the first of his Falcon Heavy rockets, designed to carry sizeable cargoes into space. It will lift off from NASA’s historic launch site, Pad 39A in Florida, that sent astronauts to the Moon.

In the cargo bay will be the $250,000 supercar that has a top speed of 250mph and can accelerate to 60mph in just 1.9 seconds.

Early today, Musk, 46, tweeted: “Falcon Heavy to launch next month from Apollo 11 pad at the Cape. Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another.”

He added: “Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”

Musk is a leading proponent for building a human colony on Mars and said he aims to ferry a million people there over the next 50 to 100 years in a fleet of 1,000 spaceships.

He famously quipped: “I’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact.”

A SpaceX video about the Falcon Heavy

The test launch of a Falcon Heavy, which has a triple booster and 27 Merlin engines, was due to happen in November but has been postponed until early 2018.

SpaceX says that the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two, and able to lift over 54 metric tons into orbit. That is equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.

The Falcon Heavy looks like three rockets strapped together. Its first stage is made up of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to about 18 jumbo jets. Musk’s aim in developing the Falcon Heavy was always to carry humans into space, including crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

Related: Humans must urgently colonise space, says Stephen Hawking

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