Despite visionary CEO Elon Musk’s initial fears, the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, proved a major success. The rocket makes possible a heavy-lift capacity last seen with the Saturn V rockets which sent astronauts to the moon. Czech Radio spoke to SpaceX sole Czech employee David Pavlík.
Commercial aerospace company SpaceX headed by Elon Musk has proven it is a firm like no other, overseeing the successful test launch of a massive rocket, Falcon Heavy, with a most unusual payload – a cherry-red Tesla Speedster complete with a mock astronaut named Starman at the wheel.
The significance of the words Don’t Panic on his dashboard screen (a reference to Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) was lost on no one, and Musk himself said during a post-launch interview that “silly but fun” was important even in the most serious of scientific endeavors. He described that a tiny Hot Wheels roadster complete with a tiny astronaut had also been placed in the vehicle.
The successful launch has been described just about everywhere as absolutely astonishing, not least with the in-synch upright return landing of two of three boosters right on target.
The point of launch was certainly to put SpaceX ahead of the competition but also to expand possibilities for all of humankind in the future. As Musk said at the press conference afterwards, he wants a new space race.
How was the launch seen by employees at SpaceX itself? Czech Radio put that question to the sole Czech employed at SpaceX, David Pavlík, who is part of the software team on SpaceX’s reusable Dragon spacecraft. He had this to say:
“For me it was like every launch in the sense that we were watching and had it on, also through our own feed… This was a very tense launch of course and we all went silent about two minutes before.
“All of us had goosebumps. These are moments when I say it would make sense to record one’s pulse. The tension was soon replaced with a feeling of euphoria I had maybe only during my first-ever launch after I had just joined the firm.”
Although one of the boosters did not return but fell into the Atlantic Ocean, Mr Pavlík says there was no question the test launch had been an overwhelming success.
The roadster itself, on a heliocentric orbit, immediately became an iconic and unforgettable image. Elon Musk said that live pictures were almost too crisp and that in some ways had it been conceived for a film, that CGI would have looked better than the real thing.
David Pavlik described the space car like this.
“I hope it doesn’t come across as clichéd but the car is proof that anything as possible. It is proof that one’s reach should try and really exceed one’s grasp. The roadster, with Mr Starman, is proof that anything is possible.”