SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket didn’t blow up on the launch pad, but it did blow up the internet.
More than 2 million people tuned in to the launch of the world’s most powerful operational rocket on YouTube. The pieces of the triple-barreled rocket splintered off and two of the three cores made picture-perfect landings, setting off childlike joy across the internet.
With the launch complete, attention turned to the Tesla Roadster with a spacesuit-clad “Starman” mannequin in the front seat packed inside the Falcon Heavy’s nose cone. A livestream produced breathtaking images of Starman and the Roadster in space.
No one had more to be giddy about today than SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. But he played it cool.
View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
Currently over Australia 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/HAya3E6OEJ
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
Hours after the launch, President Donald Trump sent along his congratulations, hailing SpaceX’s achievement as an example of “American ingenuity at its best.”
Congratulations @ElonMusk and @SpaceX on the successful #FalconHeavy launch. This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best! pic.twitter.com/eZfLSpyJPK
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2018
That drew a gracious acknowledgment from Musk, who hasn’t always seen eye to eye with the president.
Thank you on behalf of SpaceX. An exciting future lies ahead!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, congratulated SpaceX as well (and linked to Fox News, of course).
Congrats @SpaceX on today's launch! It demonstrates America's unparalleled space leadership as the Trump Admin & the National Space Council seek to transform our space policy, seize 21st century opportunities & unleash the infinite potential of the cosmos for the American people https://t.co/UuDtk2T2Gf
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 7, 2018
Praise also came from Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO and founder of SpaceX rival Blue Origin. Before the launch, Bezos wished Musk and SpaceX good luck, and Musk responded with a smooching emoji.
After the launch, Bezos kept the bromance alive, giving Musk a congratulatory “Woohoo” and three rocket emojis in honor of the Falcon Heavy.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) February 7, 2018
The launch elicited huzzahs from other luminaries in the space community.
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) February 6, 2018
— Bill Nye (@BillNye) February 6, 2018
An outstanding achievement in space flight! Is there anything these talented women and men can't do?! https://t.co/fK17GKt2pE
— Carolyn Porco (@carolynporco) February 6, 2018
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) February 6, 2018
— Nicole Stott (@Astro_Nicole) February 7, 2018
The celebrating is only just beginning! This is a game changer that could save NASA and the future of space exploration! Get onboard – it is going to be a great ride! #falconheavy @SpaceX @NASA pic.twitter.com/rmMOSKko0k
— Lori Garver (@Lori_Garver) February 6, 2018
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) February 6, 2018
As it does with most major events these days, the internet had a lot to say about the launch. Most, including the GeekWire newsroom, were left in awe by the events. But it’s still Twitter, which means there was plenty of snark to go around.
I just watched the SpaceX rocket launch from my window. Thus the delay at Miami Airport as they routed all the northbound traffic inland. Good day overall. pic.twitter.com/oVTwuPZAzc
— Amy Gardner (@AmyEGardner) February 6, 2018
— Nat Geo Channel (@NatGeoChannel) February 6, 2018
One of the best things about the #FalconHeavy hashtag is seeing tweets from people all around the world who are in awe at how awesome humanity can be. It should be like that every day.
— Most Evil Genius (@mostevilgenius) February 6, 2018
— Zoli Bara (@ZoliBara) February 6, 2018
— Luke Gregory (@luke901) February 6, 2018
— Paulo Lozano (@PauloLozanoMIT) February 6, 2018
The Falcon Heavy’s two side rocket cores landed in spectacularly successful fashion, but the center core, which was set to touch down on a floating launch pad in the Atlantic, slammed into the water instead. Even before Musk provided the official word about the center core, it got the “Where’s Barb” treatment online:
— Chris Dmytriw (@chrisdmytriw1) February 6, 2018
— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) February 6, 2018
— Kevin (@cbkevin) February 6, 2018
Overall, the launch was a giant leap for space travel and something that didn’t seem possible even a few years ago. Robert Zubrin, president and founder of the nonprofit Mars Society, congratulated the SpaceX team on its “spectacular and historic success.”
“Seven years ago, the Augustine commission said that NASA’s Moon program had to be cancelled, because the development of the necessary heavy lift booster would take 12 years and 36 billion dollars,” Zubrin said in a statement. “SpaceX has now done that, on its own dime, in half the time and a twentieth of the cost. And not only that, but the launch vehicle is three quarters reusable. This is a revolution. The naysayers have been completely refuted. The Moon is now within reach. Mars is now within reach. The moment is at hand to open the space frontier. America should seize the time.”
NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, joined in the congratulations — and noted NASA’s role in leasing Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A to SpaceX for 20 years.
“All of us in this business know the effort it takes to get to a first flight of any new vehicle and recognize the tremendous accomplishment we witnessed today,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am really proud of the hard work of our NASA team, in particular at Kennedy, for the transformation into a multi-user spaceport.”