There is a Car in Space!
No, that’s not a badly photoshopped image, that’s a Tesla Roadster in Space!
If you have missed the news, Earth’s resident crazy scientist / real-life Tony Stark, and his company SpaceX, conducted their first launch of the world’s most powerful rocket. This rocket didn’t just launch into space, it delivered a Tesla Roadster, with an astronaut dummy passenger, on a one-way trip into space. You may know Elon Musk as the CEO/Founder of a list of world changing innovative companies: PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, Hyperloop, OpenAI, and Neuralink.
What should grab your attention about this story is that the car you can now watch on livestream, soaring through space, is the new Tesla Roadster.
Announced November 2017, the new Tesla Roadster, without the aid of SpaceX rockets, hits 100km/h in 2.1 seconds, with top speed over 400km/h. Available in all-wheel drive, packing 10,000 Nm of torque, and hitting a range of 1,000km on one charge – those are some amazing stats. This is a revival of the original 2008 Roadster, the first consumer car launched by Tesla, cementing it’s position in the market before the release of the Model S made it a household name. Unlike the original Roadster, the new 2020 Roadster is no longer a two-seat convertible, it’s a four-seat sports with a removable glass roof panel. You’ll hear no complaints about these changes from us, the design is sexy, chic, and looks the part of a very high end sports car.
Already excited? Get in early. The Roaster isn’t set to go into production until 2019, but Tesla is already taking reservations, at $66,000. The base model start at around $260,000, with the special limited edition Founder’s Edition, priced at $326,000.
Following the successful announcement of the Tesla Roadster at their November conference, shooting a prototype into space was a genius marketing move from a company that has a $0 marketing budget, and no marketing division. Instead Tesla ‘sells a slice of the future’ and has their fans do the marketing for them. Though this was more than an expensive PR stunt, this was the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The great move was adding a Tesla to the payload, filled to the brim with geeky popular culture references to drive word of mouth, and it worked. It grabbed our attention, and why not, this is something that you would expect in fiction, not in real life.
The unique one-of-a-kind space faring model has reached speeds of 25,300 mp/h or 7m/s, in kilometres that’s around 40,700km/h or 11.2 km/s. At these speeds the Tesla Roadster is able to bridge the distance between London and Sydney in less than half an hour. To put those speeds into perspective, for Sydneysiders, the roadster is clearing the distance between Central Station and Roseville in one second. It’s 12.5 times faster than a bullet fired from a rifle, and about 30 times faster than the speed of sound.
It was set for a close fly by to Mars, but it overshot, and now is heading somewhere between the Asteroid belt and a Mars orbit, an orbit that could last for millions of years before decaying into Mars, if the Roadsters alloys are capable of handling the radiation of space. Unluckily they are not, space is an unforgiving abyss and the Roadster will only survive a few years of the sun’s radiation before breaking apart.
Some of us were hoping that it would head into the Asteroid belt, potentially colliding with an asteroid. It would have been a far more spectacular ending than slowly decaying in space. For a company the boasts that their cars are so safe they break crash test equipment, a collision with an asteroid would be the hardest crash test ever. Let’s be honest, it would make a huge puff of shrapnel of the Roadster, but it would be magnificent. At those speeds, a collision is called a hypervelocity impact. This where the objects impact at such speeds that the bonds between the atoms are broken on impact, the elements of what makes each solid particle are then compressed together turning into a massive explosion. Literally converting inert non-explosive matter into high energy explosive matter due to the energy of the impact. As long as it’s going fast enough, anything becomes an explosive on impact.
So, back to the story…
We touched on before that it wasn’t enough just to launch the Roadster into space, but the sports car has been filled with geeky references to add a little more fanfare. The car is playing David Bowie “Life on Mars” and the dummy has been named Starman. Starman will become famous as potentially the loneliest test-dummy in existence. At least Buster from Myth Busters had some friendly conversation before he was routinely blown up. To complete the weirdness, the dashboard displays the words ‘Don’t Panic’ – a reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the guide itself featuring the words on it’s cover. If it seems like a stretch, the glove box holds a copy of the book and a towel. The towel is another reference to the book, “a towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.”
But, we’re not done with the recent eccentric ideas from Elon Musk.
He has been selling flamethrowers to raise money for the Boring Company. A company he started after a random tweet, possibly originally meant as only a joke, gathered online interest. No, we are not joking, that is how it happened. The Boring Company is set to change automotive travel in the future, and it’s well worth a future article from us. It’s something of science novels, and, it’s already started!
Bored in traffic, Elon Musk, got the idea to dig tunnels between cities for high speed transport networks, almost like bullet-train train-tracks for cars, with a sort of high speed conveyor belt that car connects onto. To get a real sense of the project, check out this video. Elon, like any rogue maverick scientist with a twitter account, then agreed with his own tweet, joked that he would call it the Boring company, because he was bored in traffic, and it would bore tunnels (it’s not the most sophisticated of jokes), and then actually followed through. Currently a test case tunnel to proof the technology is being bored between Los Angeles and Culver City.
So back to our original tangent on Elon Musk and flamethrowers…
Well, not flamethrowers. There were some custom issues with shipping flamethrowers to the general public, so they were marketed as ‘Not a Flamethrower’. The Not a Flamethrower quickly sold out, all 20,000 of them, at $500 a piece, raising $10 million dollars. No background checks or training needed. Many of the purchases going to California, in the depths of drought and recently ravaged by wildfires creating $1 billion worth of damage. How is it legal? Well it kinda is. Flamethrowers have varying definitions but in California it has to stream fire further than 10 feet, which these won’t.
Making them safe family friendly fun. No. Not at all. Though legally, it seems that it’s perfectly fine that 20,000 Not a Flamethrowers are going to ship out across the United States.
Is there even an age restriction? No. No, there isn’t. It’s unprecedented, unregulated, and sits in a weird legal grey area.
Here’s a still shot from the video Elon Musk released, filmed in what looks like a hallway of in their office building, including him running at the camera with his Not a Flamethrower, throwing flame, close enough that whomever was filming jumped back in fear. Funny times! What a great work environment! HR would love it!
Of course, again this has been a very successful marketing campaign, from a company that prides itself on not marketing. The flamethrowers raised money for the Boring Company and served the purpose of gaining media attention that was completely free and far more effective than a run-of-the-mill funding campaign.
Which brings us back to that earlier point, Tesla grabs headlines, not by marketing, but by showing us their plants to bring us a little slice of the future. Not the flamethrowers of course, but through their work with Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company and etc. We don’t have time to dig into all of Elon Musk’s initiatives.
So what is this slice of the future?
Tesla are banking on electric cars becoming the most popular form of consumer cars, and they are expecting a larger share than just the premium and mid-premium market. Using the profits and economies of scale developed in premium car markets, Tesla plans in the future to be able to offer entry-level cars into the market. these affordable electric vehicles will complete the shift from combustion engines to pure electric, consigning the combustion engine to the past with the steam engine. This view of the future includes building the solar grids and infrastructure required for the shift, to make electric vehicles the more affordable option, and “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. This is through more traditional solar plants but also developing infrastructure so that consumers can buy, sell and share the energy created by their own solar infrastructure, so that every house can be a provider of clean energy and add to the network. The idea is that if every house on your street has a solar roof, then excess energy can be traded between households to potentially cut out the solar plant as the main provider of energy.
From there, with your electric car, or perhaps in a electric car share service, you’ll be able to access neighbouring cities at speeds reserved for bullet trains. This will most likely be a pay per use service, starting at premium fees before slowly becoming more affordable. These high-speed tunnels will first start in the USA but then grow to span the rest of the world. These tunnels will have average speeds of 125mph (200km/h), but these won’t be the top speeds. The proposed Hyperloop vacuum-tube supersonic transport systems are estimated to transport people at the speeds of 600mph (965km/h). The first tunnel is planned to be built between New York and Washington DC. This would be the first of many proposed tunnels, in the future it could be possible to make the trip from NYC to London in an hour.
Of course, a level of skepticism is required, the scale of these projects is huge, but we have the feeling that with Elon behind it, it has a chance. The one difference between these ideas of the future and other predictions is Elon has created the companies that plan to make all of this part of the future – Tesla electric vehicles, the Boring Company tunnels, SolarCity solar initiatives, HyperLoop fast speed transport and more. With one vision, one goal, and one CEO across all of the industries, working for a common objective, this future state seems all the more possible than disparate industries choosing to work together.