General · Media · Photo · TV

Beyond The Jetsons — SpaceX’s orbital car

A lot of science goes into exploring space. Great stories, with lots of people, lots of hard work, lots of challenges, lots of money. Yesterday’s historic launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is one of those stories which reflect our understanding of the Earth and beyond. A tale of 10^n. It’s an epic moment when we see live video of a car in space against the backdrop of our planet. A powerful meme, even though Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster was basically a static payload.

The first artificial space satellite was Sputnik 1 in 1957. It basically beeped — transmitted radio pulses — for 27 days. But even that was useful — “provided scientists with valuable information.” Thousands of satellites since.

Explorer 1 became the United States’ first artificial satellite on 31 January 1958.” It carried scientific instrumentation, and “was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt” — something Musk worried about in coast phase after launch:

Would the car and mannequin, attached to the Falcon Heavy’s second stage, survive an experimental 6-hour coast phase that would send it through Earth’s radiation-flooded Van Allen belts? And would an engine burn by the second stage after that coast go as planned, sending the Roadster out to the orbit of Mars? 1

So, if all goes well, we’ll have one of the most iconic products of our technology (touted continually in commercials) — an automobile — in orbit around the sun.2

Cartoon snapshotSpaceX photo

Which takes us to an homage to The Jetsons, where a space age of flying (aero/space) cars and space colonization was visualized on our TVs in the 1960’s and 1980’s.3

Here’s some more coverage of the historic launch.

Out-of-This-World Photos from Falcon Heavy’s Historic Debut Flight

After Falcon Heavy launch, Elon Musk revealed 7 wild things

Watch Live Views of SpaceX’s Starman Riding a Tesla Roadster in Space!


[1], February 7, 2018, “Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster Is Headed to the Asteroid Belt.”

Musk’s Roadster and its mannequin “driver,” dubbed “Starman,” launched into space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a “mass simulator” aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight. The launch was a huge success, Musk said, leaving only the fate of SpaceX’s Starman and the Roadster up in the air.

[2] Was a smartphone included in the glove compartment? If so, another iconic gadget of our planet, eh.

[3] Science fiction themes

Animation historian Christopher P. Lehman considers that the series shares its main science fiction theme with Funderful Suburbia (1962), a Modern Madcaps animated short. Both feature people involved in space colonization. However there is a key difference in the nature of the colonization. In Funderful Suburbia, humans colonize outer space in order to escape the problems of planet Earth. The Jetsons live in a place where space colonization is already established. Life in outer space is depicted as a fact of life, while the reasons behind humanity’s take over of outer space are never explained.


2 thoughts on “Beyond The Jetsons — SpaceX’s orbital car

  1. The Verge, February 7, 2018: “Sending a Tesla into space wasn’t such a dumb idea.”

    … then I saw the Earth fly-by videos and suddenly it all made sense. Elon Musk, the master salesman of our times, has found the perfect implement for making science sexy and evocative to everyone: a Tesla Roadster. Without a human element, even the fiery eruptions of a rocket launch can start to feel repetitive, especially in our present age of instant access to the spectacular and otherworldly. So Musk is saying, how about a glossy red electric supercar to reignite imaginations? … the car’s presence and expert presentation is what elevated that event, it’s what many of us will remember most vividly …

Comments are closed.