GONZO THE GREAT incarnate and boring flamethrower salesman, Elon Musk, has successfully launched the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, seen as the future of man's conquest of the stars.
The launch billed as a 'risky test-flight' went entirely to plan, and crucially, the return to Earth, which brings the total cost of sending payloads up in the first place down by huge factors, was at least partially successful.
Two of the rocket boosters made a perfect, synchronised landing in Florida. The central booster, however, didn't have enough propellant for its landing on a sea-drone, and instead crashed into the ocean at around 500kph.
Perfecting this technology will allow space flights to become significantly more affordable, with the Big Heavy billed as being twice as powerful as the next most powerful rocket, but a third of the price tag.
Musk wasn't without his doubts, after yesterday saying he was "giddy" with excitement: "I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road. But fortunately, that's not what happened."
But Musk's Barnum credentials weren't far away. The payload of this test flight was a Tesla Roadster car, with a real SpaceX astronaut suited mannequin (known as Starman) in the driving seat, a copy of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy in the glove compartment, the words "Don't Panic" in large, friendly letters on the Sat Nav, and a loop of David Bowie's Space Oddity on the stereo.
But it wasn't an entirely empty gesture. The suit is the same one that SpaceX astronauts will use in the future, and it has, by all accounts, passed its first field test with flying colours.
The Tesla itself overshot Mars's orbit which was the original plan and is now hurtling towards the asteroid belt. Live coverage from an onboard camera is still streaming on YouTube.
Doubtless, somewhere in the distant future, some aliens will discover the Tesla and think Earth must have had no problems with poverty, or war, or famine, or disease, if they could afford such a folly.
But then they might realise it was a representation of the planet's Utopian dream, from a crazy Martian South African with a vision. µ
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