This week, scientists belonging to the private company SpaceX made a rocket carry a full-fledged car into space and let it into orbit, leading to the major finding that the scientists were all tripping on psychedelic drugs.
Well, at least that is what I think could be the only possible discovery from the whole operation. I speak from experience. Back in college, we, in a spirit of similar inquisitiveness, used to carry out experiments, like what really happens to a bicycle when it is dropped from outer space. The outer space here was the terrace of the three-storeyed hostel building. The result of this novel experiment was truly interesting: The authorities quickly discovered that most of the participant students were drunk. (The gravity of the crime was deemed higher because the cycle in question belonged to the hostel warden’s).
I smell the same sense of scientific curiosity at play in putting a car in outer space. But before I get all snarky, I should admit that I am a big fan of Elon Musk, who we journalists are duty-bound to describe as ‘maverick’ (SpaceX is his company and the car that has been put into orbit belongs to his other more famous company Tesla). He laid out the abiding philosophy behind the whole project: “It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly, fun things are important”.
When someone says silly things are important, he has my total admiration. Elon Musk and his team have fitted the car with several high-end cameras and they have already started beaming pictures from high up. The major takeaway for me from those pictures is much of outer space is mostly like my neighbourhood Vadapalani, in that there are no streetlights and it is mostly dark.
The car, we are told, will orbit the space for — this is why you have to so love the science community — “million years or even billion years”. If after million or odd years, if the car is found missing, I think you have a strong case to sue Tesla. Let’s see what happens.
The car has a mannequin, named Starman, in the driving seat, which is disappointing. Left to myself, I would have gone in for a living person, like Subramanian Swamy, to be put in that car. That would have sent a strong warning signal to the aliens, if any in the outer space. They would not not want to mess with a planet that has the likes of Subramanian Swamy.
The car’s music system is also said to play Space Oddity, a song by David Bowie. Don’t want to blame Elon Musk here — he may not be aware of it — but Karuthavellam Galeejam would decidedly have been the better choice. Never mind, as my neighbour’s son keeps playing the song on his system at volumes that would anyway be audible in other planets.
We are also told that Musk and his team are not going to stop with this experiment. The company SpaceX has lined up many other interesting projects. Its rockets are also regularly used to carry cargo to international space station where astronauts are lodged.
Seriously, cargo rockets are a thing. But I don’t know what they actually ferry and what the astronauts at the space station need from time to time.
But I suspect this might be one of their conversations:
Astronaut 1: Damn!
Astronaut 2: What happened?
Astronaut 1: Forgot the mobile charger, man. Told the wife to put it in with the toilet kit. But she goofed up again.
Astronaut 2: Chill, dude. Ask your wife to put it in the cargo rocket coming tomorrow. And till then, here use my power-bank.
Astronaut 1: I was just kidding da. You seem to forget that I am on Airtel. I get no signal even in my house. How will I get it to work here?
Astronaut 2: Don’t get me started on my service provider Vodafone.
Elon Musk cargo service rocket also has some other interesting possibilities. What if food delivery guys like Swiggy sign up with his company to deliver food to space station crew.
Delivery guy: Hello, what is you exact address, sir
Space station person: That mentioned clearly when I ordered, no?
Delivery guy: Yes, sir. But what is the nearest landmark?
Space station person: (Peering through the window) Nearest landmark would be Mars, roughly 400 million kilometres from here.
Delivery guy: Thanks, sir. Will give you a call once I come near the landmark.
All said done, Musk and his team have made us Earth beings proud by putting self-driven Tesla car in space. Next time around, I do hope they have the better sense to put in orbit the truest pioneer in driver-less vehicles — Chennai’s share autos.