It's not uncommon for Elon Musk to toss in extra surprises during main events. That's how he debuted the new Roadster: the Roadster was the mystery cargo during the Tesla Semi truck reveal. Now, Musk might be sending a Tesla Roadster up with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. And, as with most major plans that Musk has, he took to Twitter to let everyone know.
Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017
So, in the mind of Elon Musk, sending a cherry red Roadster blasting David Bowie music on a loop for the entire solar system to hear makes the most sense for a payload. Plenty of people responded with a general sense of "this is cool, but why?" As per usual, Musk had a response at the ready.
I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017
The Falcon Heavy will launch from the same pad that Apollo 11 launched from in 1969. Musk also confirmed on Twitter that the Falcon Heavy will have "double the thrust of the next largest rocket."
Falcon Heavy to launch next month from Apollo 11 pad at the Cape. Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 2, 2017
However, what gets confusing is the exchange between Musk and media outlet The Verge. Musk sent out the plans to have a Roadster as the payload, and the Verge asked for confirmation. Musk said yes; the Verge published the story. Then, according to the magazine, Musk then sent them a Twitter DM saying he "totally made it up." But someone "familiar with the matter," told the news outlet on Saturday evening that the cherry red payload is real.
The Falcon Heavy will increase the amount of cargo SpaceX can send to space for customers. The project has been scheduled for years; SpaceX originally intended for the Falcon Heavy to debut in 2013 or 2014. The company estimated that it will take more than twice the payload of its nearest competitors for only a third of the cost. That's over 119,000 pounds that Musk estimates can be sent into space for the best price on the market.
That only works, however, if the payload doesn't blow up alongside the rocket. Musk isn't shying away from the possibilities of Falcon Heavy not making it; he even ended his most recent tweet with "...if it doesn't blow up on ascent." Which is why he said he would put the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the rocket.
The Falcon Heavy (as the name implies) is the company's heaviest and largest rocket, capable of creating three times the thrust of the Falcon 9. SpaceX also plans on recovering all three rocket cores, just as it recovered the main rocket boosters of the Falcon 9s.