SpaceX's big new rocket blasts off, puts sports car in space


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX's big new rocket blasted off today on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.

The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.

The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands watched from surrounding beaches, bridges and roads, jamming the highways in scenes unmatched since NASA's last space shuttle flight. At SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, employees screamed, whistled and raised pumped fists into the air as the launch commentators called off each milestone.

Two of the boosters – both recycled from previous launches – returned minutes later for simultaneous, side-by-side touchdowns on land at Cape Canaveral. Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the vertical landings. There was no immediate word on whether the third booster, brand new, made it onto an ocean platform 300 miles offshore.

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk owns the rocketing Tesla Roadster, which is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars. As head of the electric carmaker Tesla, he combined his passions to add a dramatic flair to the Heavy's long-awaited inaugural flight. Ballast for a rocket debut is usually concrete or steel slabs, or experiments.

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