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I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.


There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


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Falcon Heavy launch a success!

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has just successfully launched its Falcon Heavy into space.

The key to this launch was to get the three first stage boosters to all work in unison, and for the two side boosters to successfully separate. All worked.

As I write this we are waiting for the two side boosters on their way back to land, and the central core heading back to land at sea.

The two side boosters landed like synchronized swimmers. The core stage barge landing remains unconfirmed. Update: SpaceX has confirmed that the core stage failed to land correctly, crashing into the ocean.

Two Falcon Heavy boosters landing simultanously

Even so, the upper stage and its payload are in orbit. They will fire its engines in about a half hour, and then again in six hours to put the Tesla into solar orbit. Update: The first firing occurred as scheduled, and Musk has now confirmed that the final burn has placed the Tesla in a solar orbit that reaches out into the asteroid belt.

SpaceX has now started a live stream from the Tesla, showing its mannequin dubbed “Starman” sitting in the driver’s seat.

Even if the core stage failed to land successfully, and even if the upper stage fails to send the Tesla towards Mars, this launch is an unqualified success. SpaceX has demonstrated that the Falcon Heavy works. It is now the most powerful rocket in operation, and only matched or beaten in capability by the Saturn 5, Energia, and the Space Shuttle, none of which exist any longer.

The 2018 launch standings:

6 China
3 SpaceX
2 Japan

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Localfluff

    The two boosters indeed looked synchronized.
    What a relief! It is here. Since last year the Chinese have had the largest launcher in the world (with problems). Now they don’t, not even by half.

  • Jhon

    A thing of Beauty.. Just wish we could have seen the center booster drop. I hope it is ok.

  • t-dub

    THAT was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. WOW!!! Watching FH power off the pad was awesome and when the side boosters landed together I was screaming right along with all the SpaceX employees. USA . . . USA . . .USA!!!

    What a show!!! I just hope the center core landed successfully, no word yet . . .

  • Steve Rogers


  • Localfluff

    Maybe given a turn around of the stock market coinciding with the media focus on Falcon Heavy, space launches maybe get a boost at their “good for growth”-reputation? Especially since it is private, run by a guy like Elon Musk, it is hard to dismiss it as a boondoggle and wasted tax monies.

    Launching a car might contribute to some kind of space sponsoring, where any company wants to pay something to send something to orbit and take a selfie of it there. Like the Whopper Space Burger with the bacon hoovering above it temptingly. Oh well, maybe not.

  • eddie willers

    I clicked the link from Drudge to go to CBS live and got there one minute and 10 seconds until blastoff. At one minute the computer took over and at 41 seconds I am excited as all h….then, abruptly, I am in a White House briefing room!

    What the …?!

    I don’t know if it was CBS’s fault or that my browser updated and went to a different CBS feed or what….but talk about coitus interruptus!

    So, anyway, I miss the live takeoff but after a quick search, found the live stream with the rocket about a minute into it’s flight and was able to rewind to the takeoff.

    I sat slack jawed and amazed and kept wondering how that thing went up without breaking apart and then I thought, “It really IS rocket science!

  • Gary M.


  • t-dub

    LIVE camera footage from StarMan!!!

  • Cotour

    Now that was an impressive display of high IQ Nerdieness X’s Visionary Entrepreneurship X’s Access to Capital .

    (IQN X VE X $$$ = SEX) (Everything is about sex :)

    What might some life form who has achieved space flight think of finding such a thing as a Tesla floating around in space? What might we think if we found the same put their by “someone” else at some point? Mind boggling.

  • Localfluff

    The aliens will simply think:
    “- Ah, so this Elon Musk has been here too already! I hate his cars. They never hit the road.”

  • Favorite parts of flight:

    Clearing the tower (Musk’s definition of flight success).

    Tesla in orbit. I believe that makes the Tesla Roadster the fastest production car ever. Loved the dash sign.

    Booster landing. Hard to believe that wasn’t CGI.

    And this gem from the New York Times story: “Then a thunderous roar, traveling at the speed of sound, rolled over the spectators.”

  • Calvin Dodge

    Scott Pace, Loren Thompson hardest hit.

  • eddie willers

    Loved the dash sign

    Don’t Panic!

    Got to believe there’s a towel there too.

  • Jim Jakoubek

    Words fail me, almost, with what I have seen today.

    This is something that would have taken the government decades to accomplish. Proof once again
    that when people are left free and there is an economic incentive to be had, they will create and do
    great things and at far less cost.

    I am both humbled and thankful once again to be an American.

    This almost makes me think that we will have footsteps on Mars in 12 years…….

  • Frank

    Love how SpaceX works efficiently and effectively. Their core mission to Mars is clear and they leverage one success on the other, not satisfied with the status quo. Who’s going to copy their reusability model first? China?

    The shot of the smoking hot side booster coming down fast at 30:00 is worth a second look. SpaceX has shown that view on some previous booster returns to the cape, but never so clear and complete. Watch the engine gimbal move to right the booster and the legs extend just before landing. Quite a powerful dance under computer control.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Pity about the lost core. I bet SpaceX would have liked to to recover it due to the differences between it and the side boosters.
    Nevertheless, what an outstanding performance!
    SpaceX impresses by its ability to attract very smart talent and get things done.

  • ken anthony

    Elon said the FH cost about the same as an F9 operationally because the upper stage is not reused on either.

    Except his price will be $30m more for customers that demand FH. They are going full speed ahead on BFR (possibly by next year, the booster a bit later.) Too bad we can’t get shares until after mars has population.

    Meanwhile, I don’t have writers block… I have too much to say in an unfocused book. So many brains in too many tiny boxes. I’m just not good at finding the historical references I know exist to move my arguments forward. We’ll be coonizing Pluto before I get this figuered out.

  • Tom

    My son and I bought tickets on line and travelled to the Kenndy Visitors Center yesterday. The place was packed to the gunnels. It was a festive atmosphere under a hot sun. When launch time came you could feel the excitement ripple through the crowd. A few delays dampened no one’s spirit. When the ship clearedd the tower and came into view at our vantage point, ecstatic people were yelling and screaming….then the soundwaves started rolling in like a tsunami. The deep staccato reverbations came in through the ears at first but it quickly became a whole body thing. We watched it until it disappeared from view and then started looking around at my fellow watchers. The grins and high fives we’re everywhere.then we were scanning the skies for the side boosters. The abundant bird life down there caused a lot of false first-sighhtings. Then, there they were. The boost back speed reduction burns made them visible to evryone and the crowd started yelling again. Then the ‘ll ending burns started and the pair dropped below the trendline and were lost to ou view. We had just witnessed “tango-technica” that no one else had ever seen. The moment was capped off with the arrival of four sonic boom in rapid order. The crowd went wild..

  • Tom

    Apologies for the typos …. fat fingers on a phone keyboard.

  • wayne

    Excellent Adventure!

    (I was fortunate to watch the Apollo 8 as a kid.)

  • wayne

    excuse me. “ the Apollo 8 launch in person, as a kid.”

    How close were you? (I was like’ 2-3 miles away.)

  • Wayne: I can guarantee that you were at least 3 miles away, maybe more since that distance is usually where the put the VIPs and the press.

  • Tom

    The KSC Visitors Center is at least four miles from the pad. I heard someone mention six miles as the distance. At first, FH looked like a slow moving, model rocket. But when the crackeling rumble of the engines arrived, my sense of it’s power and scale came into a sharper focus that was further honed as the rumble kept increasing by factors. Feeling the ground vibrate like that certainly helps you assess the power of that ship. Im going to make time for the next launch, too.

  • wayne

    Tom– again, A great Adventure!

    For Apollo 8, we camped overnight in Tampa, got up way early, and (literally) just followed traffic across the State to the space center zone. Brilliant sunny morning.
    We were in a built up swampy area somewhere, and there was a distinct lag between seeing the engines ignite and hearing them.
    >most spectacular thing I ever witnessed in my life.

  • wayne

    Might as well stick this in here:

    The Moore Show, May, 2013
    Robert Zimmerman – The Future of Space Exploration & Apollo 8

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey,
    My favorite parts of flight:

    Lifting off the pad (I had convinced myself that the engines would shut down, despite the successful engine test last week).

    Booster rocket separation, because it was pretty much a regular launch, after that, so a high chance of success.

    The video of the Tesla in orbit, and even more after reading the dashboard sign. Usually there is much more professionalism in aerospace, but I have decided that Musk has discovered the power of entertaining his audience. This is more than just him having a sense of humor; it is his company selling itself to the rest of us.

    Booster landing, of course.

    ken anthony,
    You wrote: “Elon said the FH cost about the same as an F9 operationally because the upper stage is not reused on either. Except his price will be $30m more for customers that demand FH. They are going full speed ahead on BFR (possibly by next year, the booster a bit later.) Too bad we can’t get shares until after mars has population.

    He has found an excellent way to fund his future development yet still giving his customers a bargain price. And I had wanted to invest back in 2009.

    Excellent story. Although the rest of us got some nice views while watching live at home (or work), I guarantee that you had a far better time, even more excitement, and much better memories, and you can still see, at your leisure, the nice views that we saw.

    Looking at Google Maps, it looks like the six-mile estimate is about right. Imagine what the sound and vibration would have been like if you were half as far, such as at the KSC Countdown Clock, where the VIPs and press get to be.

    I went with my father and some friends to see the first Space Shuttle launch, quite an exiting event. We then drove around the clock in order to watch the landing, too.

    Ah, but you got to see two landings and didn’t have to drive anywhere to see them.

  • wayne

    you’ll like this-
    from Musk’s Instagram:
    “Made on Earth by humans”
    -Printed on the circuit board of a car in deep space-

  • Steve Earle

    Tom, excellent description! Now I want to go see one in person :-)

    Question: Is there any vantage point open to the public where you can see the launch tower?

    Bonus points if I can bring my RV to sleep in beforehand. (I have visions of clips from “Apollo 13” and “Contact” where they show hundreds of RV’s and cars parked on beaches and roads within clear view of the tower….)

  • wayne

    That’s what it looked like for Apollo 8. We had to camp outside Tampa, ‘cuz every campground closer to the Cape, was clogged full.
    (We had the Christmas tree, strapped to the top of the station-wagon.)

  • Cotour

    I have a question for a high IQ space nerd: When I watch the “Starman” live feed why can I not see any stars?

  • Cotour: The contrast between light and dark is too great to see stars. This is why astronauts themselves do not see stars in the daytime in space. Our irises close down to protect the eye from the light, and thus cannot see the tiny light coming from stars. Cameras have the same problem.

    Look at the banner at the top of BtB. The sky is black.

  • Cotour

    Then how are we able to navigate in space if we are unable to detect the stars for reference? At what point / distance are we able to detect the stars?

  • Cotour: Not being able to see or photograph the stars, when your iris or exposure is balanced for daylight, does not mean you cannot detect the stars. You avoid the sun, change your exposure for low light situations, and the stars become easily detectable.

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