Those who’ve been riding the Falcon Heavy emotional rollercoaster know it’s been an unpredictable journey to say the least. Elon Musk, who’s been sitting front row the whole time, has not made the journey for any of us smoother, especially since he keeps hinting that the “world’s most powerful rocket” might be doomed.
“Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit,” the SpaceX founder wrote in a tweet from December 2017. “Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.” A normal, playful jest indeed!
Now that the Falcon Heavy has an official launch date set for February 6, the question is more pertinent than ever: Does Elon Musk think his rocket is going to explode?
After scouring a year’s worth of tweets and other comments, the answer’s as murky as ever.
It seems that the first time Musk publicly dunked on his own creation was back in July 2017, speaking at the 2017 ISS R&D Conference in Washington, D.C. He awkwardly said that watching the most powerful rocket in the world launch was sure to induce “major pucker factor,” which crudely translates to butt-clenching fear.
“There’s, like, a lot that can go wrong there … it’s guaranteed to be exciting,” Musk said. “There’s a lot of risk associated with Falcon Heavy, a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit.”
To be fair, it makes sense to set expectations low for the gargantuan rocket. At 230 feet (70 meters), souped-up with 27 Merlin engines, it’s an unruly beast. It’s also worth noting that Elon and co. have been planning the FH’s maiden launch since at least 2011, as it was supposed to take off back in 2013. There’s a lot more than Elon’s midnight cherry Tesla Roadster riding on this mission — it’s a make or break moment for SpaceX and private spaceflight as a whole.
That said, goddamn is it morbidly funny to watch Elon talk shit about his own rocket.
In an interview with astronomer-writer Phil Plait last month, just days after this tweet, Musk once again set the bar for the Falcon Heavy unbelievably low.
“Just bear in mind that there is a good chance this monster rocket blows up, so I wouldn’t put anything of irreplaceable sentimental value on it,” he said, even though he is sending his own $200,000 car on board.
The good news for Elon, SpaceX fans, and people who generally like to avoid disaster is that the Falcon Heavy recently had a successful static fire test. That bodes well for the rocket’s first and final launch.
But even if it all goes to hell, at least — as Musk himself says — it’ll be “exciting.”