On Tuesday, something truly ridiculous is going to space.
Elon Musk's SpaceX is launching the first flight of its new rocket, the Falcon Heavy. And what is it taking to space? Perhaps a satellite? Maybe a student experiment? Nope!
SpaceX is launching a cherry red Tesla Roadster blasting "Space Oddity" by David Bowie into a distant orbit around Mars.
It's pointless. It's dumb. It's corporate synergy at its worst. But, oh boy, do I love it.
I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017
Assuming it doesn't blow up on the pad, this car will float through our solar system for millions of years.
Just imagine it: An alien civilization far more advanced than our own visits our little part of space and what do they find first? A freaking Tesla Roadster launched toward Mars on a whim by an eccentric billionaire with a dream. Well, many dreams, really.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but the thing is, space exploration could use more whimsy.
Historically, spaceflight has been a pretty stodgy affair. Only the richest companies and nations have historically been able to send satellites and other payloads to space because flying to space is generally pretty expensive.
It's understandable, then, that most folks aren't launching purely superfluous, silly things into orbit. Even art projects are expected to have some kind of deeper meaning.
Take, for example, the Voyager spacecraft's Golden Record, launched in the 1970s. The record is effectively an art project designed to let any kind of intelligent alien race that may come across it learn more about humanity and our place in the universe. It's beautiful, profound, and arguably the best representation of ourselves we've ever sent out there.
By comparison, the Tesla Roadster is a meaningless corporate gimmick, but it's pretty amazing that we've gotten to the point where space can be a little frivolous and — dare I say it — fun!
Humans can be profound, smart, and inward looking like the Golden Record, but we can also be ridiculous and kind of dumb, like the Falcon Heavy Tesla launch. Doesn't it make sense to have both halves of our humanity represented out there among the stars?
There's plenty of room out there. The Voyager Golden Record and Musk's Tesla both have their place out there in the void, and personally, I couldn't be happier about it.