Yesterday's successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX brought a lot of attention to "Starman" sitting behind the wheel of Elon Musk's Tesla roadster as it heads toward Mars. And while the mannequin did look cool in many of the photos captured from the ongoing livestream of the journey, it actually has a purpose.
During a post-launch conference call with reporters, Musk said that Starman was wearing an actual SpaceX spacesuit that astronauts would eventually don when they head to space aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule supposedly coming at the end of this year.
The suit features a sleeker design than we have come to expect from NASA manned missions, but has been tested in a double vacuum and pulls off an aesthetic look while still being functional.
“I mean, it’s a dangerous trip, you want to look good,” Musk said. “It’s easy to make a spacesuit that looks good but doesn’t work; it’s really hard to make a spacesuit that works, and looks good.”
Even more important, the suit follows the specifications that NASA has set to allow them to be used in space. “It definitely works, though,” Musk said. “You can just put it on and jump in a vacuum chamber.”
The launch of the Falcon Heavy was a major step for SpaceX as it gears up for an actual manned flight. The rocket's payload - Musk's red roadster piloted by Starman - was successfully delivered to space on a trip toward Mars, although a burn pushed it past the red planet and through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The two side boosters that took the payload aloft successfully made a simultaneous landing back on Earth.
Unfortunately, the main central core was not as lucky, as its attempt to land on a drone ship failed when two of its engines failed to ignite, causing to crash into the water at about 300 miles per hour near the drone ship. The core was destroyed and the drone ship was damaged, but considering everything else that went according to plan, it can be classified as a minor setback that will likely be addressed before the next launch.