When the news was released that the first launch of the Falcon Heavy was to be delayed from late 2017 to early 2018, hardly anyone was surprised. The big, heavy lift rocket launcher being developed by SpaceX has faced numerous delays as Elon Musk’s engineers struggle to overcome the technical challenges of building what will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V last flew in the early 1970s. However, when Musk announced on Twitter what he would be launching to Mars on top of the Falcon Heavy, the world was surprised.

I’ve heard of flying cars, but this is ridiculous

The folks at Ars Technica checked with SpaceX to make sure that Musk was not leading the world on. Yes, indeed the company intends to launch the very first electric-powered sports car that Tesla ever built and put it in orbit around the Red Planet. Elon Musk has always been known for his sense of whimsy and his tendency to be a showman. However, the unusual payload for the first flight of the Falcon Heavy is going to top everything that has ever been attempted before, even by P.T.


Is there a method to Musk’s madness?

On the other hand, perhaps Musk is a little clever in his choice of the first private payload to be launched to Mars orbit. Tesla has struggled to become profitable during the time it was producing luxury cars such as the Roadster as well as the Model S and Model X. Stories of Tesla’s struggles to hit production goals for the mass market Model 3 have become replete in the financial and automotive media.

It is burning through cash at such an astonishing rate that most think that the enterprise is not sustainable.

To be sure, solving the Model 3 production problems will go a long way to righting things at Tesla. In the meantime, what better way to drum up publicity for Tesla as the car of the future than to launch one of them into space?

It could be the most expensive commercial ever made, especially if the launch results in the Falcon Heavy blowing up, which Musk concedes is a real possibility. However, the idea of the first space car orbiting Mars for a billion years is something that is too delicious for words.

On the other hand, imagine a far future in which the human race no longer exists. Aliens arrive in our solar system and find a high end, electric powered sports car in orbit around the fourth rock from the sun. Imagine what they would think. The anomaly would no doubt set off numerous debates in alien scientific circles about how such an object got there.