Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in a parking space
outside SpaceX in 2010
In March 2017, Musk stated that the launch of the new Falcon Heavy vehicle was risky, so it would carry the "silliest thing we can imagine". On December 1, 2017 he said that the payload would be his personal Roadster, subsequently verifying that he was not joking. On December 22, Musk published pictures of the car taken before payload encapsulation.
Traditionally, concrete or steel blocks are used as ballast in risky test flights. SpaceX wanted to demonstrate that their new rocket could carry a payload as far as the orbit of Mars. They reportedly had offered NASA to carry a scientific payload, but these plans did not come to fruition.
This Roadster became the first consumer car sent into space. Three manned rovers were sent to space on the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions in the 1970s and these vehicles were left on the Moon.
The first-generation Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car. The red Roadster launched into space is one of Elon Musk's privately owned vehicles. Musk said in a 2012 interview that the Roadster was "the one I drive to work". The car was installed in the Falcon Heavy rocket at an inclined position above the payload adapter in order to account for the mass distribution.
"Starman", a mannequin, seated in the Roadster
A number of whimsical objects were included in the Roadster. Positioned in the driver's seat is "Starman", a full-scale human mannequin named after the David Bowie song "Starman" and clad in SpaceX's pressure spacesuit. The mannequin has its right hand on the steering wheel and left elbow resting on the open window sill. The car's sound system was looping the Bowie song "Space Oddity" as a symbolic gesture even though the car's speakers cannot emit sound in space.
There is a copy of Douglas Adams' 1979 novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, along with references to the book in the form of a towel and a sign on the dashboard that reads "Don't Panic!". A Hot Wheels miniature Roadster with a miniature Starman is mounted on the dashboard. A plaque bearing the names of the employees who worked on the project is underneath the car, and a message on the vehicle's circuit board reads "Made on Earth by humans". A copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy on a 5D optical data storage disc was included – the disk holds 360 terabytes but the books only comprised 3 megabytes. It was created by the Arch Mission Foundation and added at the last minute after Musk was informed that the disk, previously created as a proof of concept and never intended to be launched into space, was available – Musk was a fan of the trilogy.
The Roadster is attached to a Merlin 1D Vacuum second stage with extended nozzle by a payload attachment fitting.