Over the weekend Musk took to Twitter to say that the payload of the first Falcon Heavy rocket scheduled to launch in 2018 will be his midnight cherry Tesla Roadster. Musk said he wants the car’s radio to be playing the David Bowie song “Space Oddity” on repeat as it orbits around Mars.
That’s a pretty funny image and also has to be a joke, right? Not according to Bloomberg, who says that “a person familiar with the launch plan at SpaceX Inc. confirmed that it is real.” I guess life is just no fun if you’re a billionaire rocket ship owner pioneering Mars travel if you can’t also send up anything you want into space.
Musk initially said he wanted to send the car to Mars orbit, which could raise concerns about planetary protection. That’s the concept of preventing contamination of worlds in our Solar System with Earth life. Honoring planetary protection is a matter of international law, as it’s mandated in the Outer Space Treaty — a 50-year-old document that dictates guidelines for what countries can and cannot do in space. And the US is ultimately responsible for US commercial space companies adhering to the treaty.