There’s nothing like having a creative mind, a little public relations savvy and having enough money to make things happen.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX test launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on a sunny February afternoon in Florida. Watching, you probably thought the same thing I did, “That kicked ass.” Musk had another reaction. Read on.
The rocket blasted off, and then a few minutes later, two of the three parts of the rocket landed back on earth. The landing was real, but looked like computer animation from some video game. The third and middle portion of the rocket, which was to land on what can best be described as a barge, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket booster was going about 300 miles an hour and missed the boat by about three hundred feet. Said Elon, the SpaceX CEO, “That sounds like some pretty fun footage, so if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well, then we’ll put that out for a blooper reel.”
That’s a minor thing though, because the commercial “money shot” was the two other rockets making vertical landings at Cape Canaveral.
Very cool stuff. The cool stuff NASA used to wow Americans with almost 50 years ago when they put the first men on the moon.
After watching the video (with a few million others on YouTube), it eventually dawned on me I was watching a commercial, because that’s what it was – a commercial for one of Musk’s other companies – Tesla.
Comic Robert Klein used to do a joke in his stand-up routine about how “first man on the moon” Neil Armstrong blew the biggest commercial opportunity in the history of mankind. He could have financially set up his family for generations. All Armstrong had to do was put that first foot in the moon dust and say, “Coca-Cola!”
Public relations savvy Elon Musk, who also founded the electric vehicle company, took the opportunity to launch one of his company’s products into space. A sweet cherry red Tesla Roadster, complete with a mannequin in a space suit behind the wheel. Note the car was an eye-catching cherry red. Not black, blue, green or any other color. It was a cherry red.
The car, now heading into deep space, also has a loop of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” playing. Never mind, that you can’t hear sound in the vacuum of space. It was the extra-added touch that counted.
“It’s just literally a normal car in space. I kind of like the absurdity of that,” said Musk. “It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly, fun things are important. I think the imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world, and it’s still tripping me out. I’m tripping balls here.”
For those of you not up on culture and its terminology, “tripping balls” translates to a heavy, deep, drug induced hallucinatory trip.
At his the first press conference after landing on the moon, I can’t imagine Neil Armstrong saying, “I’m back on Earth and I’m tripping balls here.” But, you know he was thinking it.
What about other famous phrases that come from NASA and its astronauts.
“Houston. We have a problem. I’m tripping balls here.”
For Tesla, a company that as far as I can recall sells its cars without the need of traditional advertising, launching something as common as a car – albeit a cherry red car – into space is the ultimate commercial. The result? Tesla is really cool.
It got me to thinking about NASA, the mundane, boring government space agency that lost its PR savvy decades ago. Did their engineers ever want to launch something into space to just do it? Household appliances like a Whirlpool washer and dryer? May be a Winnebago? You know so they could experience “tripping balls” too?
That cherry red Tesla launched on top of the Falcon Heavy rocket was supposed to go to Mars. As it turns out that was the second mistake with the launch. It’s now heading somewhere else in space. Where it goes really doesn’t matter.
“It’s just going to be out there in space for may be millions or billions of years,” said Musk. “May be discovered by some future alien race thinking ‘What the heck? What were these guys doing? Did they worship this car? Why do they have a little guy in the car? And that’ll really confuse them.”
Not only is he selling cool cars, Musk is a big picture thinker. He’s also trying to get those big eyed, gray skinned aliens to think, “I’m tripping balls here.”