Starman is Mars Oasis realized
In the early years of the millennium Elon Musk wanted to send a small greenhouse to Mars. A surreal photo of living green plants with a red landscape in the back would spur excitement about space exploration, which Musk thought was lacking.
Fast forward almost two decades and we have people all around the world in awe, watching a live feed of a mannequin with a fashionable space suit riding an electric red sports car, heading towards Mars with a beautiful view of the blue planet in the background.
As he mentioned in various interviews, Elon Musk has thought becoming a multi-planetary species was crucial to humanity’s longterm survival. Landing men on the Moon was the first step towards this goal. Next step should have been Mars right? When Musk realized that we haven’t made any progress towards this goal decades after landing on the Moon, because no one, including NASA, had no such plans, he thought there was a lack of enthusiasm.
Mars Oasis was the code name for a project that would land a small greenhouse on the surface of Mars. There would be samples of food crops growing on the red planet, bringing excitement and enthusiasm to the public. This would then probably lead to more funding for NASA, as well as other countries investing more in their space programs.
After looking for ways to send a greenhouse to Mars, Elon Musk realized that the rockets costed way more than he thought. The problem seemed not to be the lack of enthusiasm but the lack of a sustainable way of doing space exploration. So, he got to work on finding a way instead.
Reusable rocket technology that SpaceX has been developing over the years serves exactly this purpose. If we don’t need a new rocket for every mission, the costs drop drastically. Hence the simultaneous landings of Falcon Heavy’s boosters were a meaningful milestone.
During the press conference after the launch, Elon Musk mentioned it was silly and fun to send a mannequin riding a sports car into outer space, with a smaller mannequin riding a smaller toy car inside, with a “Don’t Panic” sign on the dash, “Made on Earth by humans” imprinted on the circuit board and David Bowie blasting on the speakers. “Silly and fun things are important” he added. It is important, for exactly the same reasons why he wanted to do the project Mars Oasis in the first place.