‘A Red Car for the Red Planet,’ tweets pragmatic dreamer Elon Musk, offering his own journalistic lede to the unfolding story of his original Tesla Roadster, and dropping further hints about his own suspected alien origins. For a billion years, the typically terrestrial-bound conveyance will cycle in elliptical orbit around Mars inside the main module, with David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ spilling from its speakers for as long as possible.
Exotic though it may be, the payload does serve the very useful purpose of testing the rocket. The concrete and steel blocks normally used in mass simulation in these cases were deemed “extremely boring” by Musk. The unusual move distills the can-do optimism of the captain of industry.
It’s a shame Bowie didn’t live to see the day when Major Tom drove laps in space. Then again, the lyrics to ‘Ashes to Ashes’ make it pretty clear that the English pop icon had already written poor Tom’s space-roving repetitions as the second chapter in the astronaut’s story, in a ‘Flying on the Ground (Is Wrong)’ context.
We’re assuming that ‘Ashes to Ashes’ will not be the B-side FLAC file played on the car radio, though. That could prompt the Martians to hold an intervention for mankind, a la Klaatu by way of A&E. Not that we couldn’t use it.
As a publicity stunt, rocketing a roadster with its own Bowie-penned soundtrack into orbit around Mars may seem to be a slightly grandiose gesture; if it is, it’s a marvelous example of how adept Musk is at keeping himself and his companies in the news. In that order.
Cynics might call this a tragic case of billionaire ennui, but—Musk will rocket them into space, too; SpaceX is carefully moving ahead with plans for manned flights.
The Falcon Heavy departs this world to circle another on February 6. And, to whom it may concern at SpaceX: please remind Elon to take his house key off the roadster’s fob before it launches.