“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”, John Keats wrote in his poem “Endymion” in 1818 – about the passion of a moon goddess for a human shepherd. And last night, February 6, 2018 (200 years afterwards), Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy rocket – like someone speeding across space to his lover, the moon. And the sights from the live cam in the Tesla Roadster inside the rocket, are things of beauty that really will be a joy for ever. This event gave us an astounding sight – the earth rising slowly from the left-hand side of the Falcon Heavy, glowing against the blackness of space.
Live views of Starman, in the roadster, in outer space. Watch carefully around 22 seconds in... 8,891,475 views and counting since it was published on YouTube yesterday, Feb. 6, 2018.
Inside the Tesla Roaster is a mannequin in a space suit, called “Starman”, a reference to the song by Davie Bowie (1972);
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky…
My favourite thing about the launch is that on the dash of the car is a little sign that says “DON’T PANIC!” Someone at SpaceX has a sense of humour! This is of course from Douglas Adams’s famous comic Sci-Fi radio play and novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978 onwards).
In the novel the name of the guide to the galaxy is the same as the book – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and on the cover of that fictional work it says in “large, friendly letters”, “DON’T PANIC”. In the novel Adams writes that this was partly because the device “looked insanely complicated” to operate, and partly to keep intergalactic travellers from panicking. “DON’T PANIC” has become one of the many phrases and concepts from the novel that have become global memes.
“It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ in large, friendly letters on the cover.”
(Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Pocket Books, 1979, p. 3)
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Earth is described in only two words: “Mostly harmless.”