Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is Officially a Celestial Object

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch is a one giant leap for space exploration

By the end of the first quarter, Tesla said it is on pace to achieve a weekly production rate of 2,500 Model 3s per week - an encouraging sign since the end of the first quarter is less than two months away.

On Tuesday, Musk's other major company, SpaceX, launched a Tesla Roadster into space aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket. Tesla CEO Elon Musk now expects the company to conduct the coast-to-coast autonomous drive in up to six months. Now the question is whether it can maintain its momentum and live up to the promise of returning human to space, while landing spacecraft on the surface of the moon - inherently hard and unsafe endeavors, even for NASA. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch.

The much delayed, much maligned rocket is just what the space agency needs to escape from the governmental bureaucracy that has bound her to Low Earth Orbit for the past 45 years. A livestream from the payload showed surreal views of the auto and its sole passenger, a mannequin stuffed into a SpaceX space suit, floating above Earth.

Shares of electric-car company Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) took a hit on Thursday, falling as much as 6.8%.

Musk - whose additional gigs span interests including artificial intelligence and tunnel digging for "hyperloop" travel - is seen by investors as key to Tesla's future success.

Falcon Heavy is big, he said, but SpaceX needs a rocket "way bigger than that". When Falcon Heavy was first announced back in 2011, Musk said it could fly within the next couple of years.

In the near term, NASA is partnering with SpaceX and Boeing to build a new spacecraft that can carry humans into space, with Mars not necessarily the goal.

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Meanwhile, NASA has been planning a Space Launch System rocket for Mars missions.

The president of the Mars Society, a space advocacy group intent on exploring and settling Mars, cheered SpaceX's achievement - and reduced price.

The new setup comprises of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores totalling to 27 Merlin engines, of which, Musk believes, up to a dozen could fail and the rocket would still reach orbit.

"The challenges of space are vast, and the risks are huge", said Bob Richards, the founder and chief executive of Moon Express, in a statement.

In the meantime, with the Heavy demo out of the way, Musk said SpaceX is putting its commercial crew effort for NASA front and center. He's hoping that will encourage other companies and countries "to raise their sights and say, hey, we can do bigger and better, which is great".

"We want a new space race", he said.


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