Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket is loaded with pop-culture references
The two NASA astronauts due to board the Tesla co-founder’s spaceship on Wednesday — the first manned US space flight in nearly a decade and the first-ever manned commercial launch — will be decked out in sleek space suits that look like something out of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
They’ll shoot into space on a rocket named Falcon 9 — a nod to Star Wars’ “Millennium Falcon” — and inside a hip-looking capsule named Dragon after the folk song “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
On top of that, they’ll ride to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in a Tesla Model X electric car.
“It is really neat, and I think the biggest testament to that is my 10-year-old son telling me how cool I am now,” astronaut Doug Hurley told the Associated Press.
“SpaceX has gone all out,” he said of the capsule. “And they’ve worked equally as hard to make the innards and the displayed and everything else in the vehicle work to perfection.”
But the ship that Hurley and fellow astronaut Bob Behnken are scheduled to strap into is no toy.
The Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket “designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth’s orbit and beyond,” the company says on its website. It could be the future of US space travel.
Musk launched SpaceX in 2002 to provide a more cost-effective form of space travel with an eye to eventual journeys to Mars.
NASA hasn’t launched a manned flight since the last space shuttle was grounded in 2011. Both Hurley and Behnken are veterans of the space agency and each have 20 years with NASA and two space flights each under their belts.
But the Falcon 9 will mark the first time a private company has launched people into space, an endeavor thus far reserved for governments in the US, China, and Russia. The SpaceX project is seen as key to fulfilling President Donald Trump’s promise to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.
Trump is expected to be at the space center to witness the launch if, weather permitting, it goes off on Wednesday.
Despite the project’s retro look, SpaceX officials assured that safety is the first concern.
“Just as we need to take care of each other through these interesting times, we’re needing to take care of the crew and bring them home,” SpaceX mission manager Benji Reed told the New York Times. “On that sacred journey together, we are all holding each other accountable.”