I cried this morning when I watched the live video stream of the launch of Falcon Heavy. As an Engineer, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of all the work and planning and preparation and testing and science and engineering and everything that went into that entire project to make that launch a success.
Beyond the success of the launch itself, the proper separation of the two Falcon 9 side boosters, continued operation of the Main booster, the placement of the capsule into proper orbit, everything just worked so well. When the two side boosters returned and landed back at Cape Canaveral, within less than one second of each other, I just shook my head in amazement and bawled with more joy.
After the launch, I watched the live video of Elon Musk being interviewed. I was chatting on Google Hangouts with a friend at the time, so we watched it together. We both thought he came across pretty well, as a rather likable, normal, and friendly human being. We joked that he clearly aced the “don’t be a dick on camera” class!
Throughout the live broadcast of the launch, I was remembering my own childhood when we landed on the Moon for the first time. The weight of history did not bear down upon me as a child, it just seemed like kind of a big deal and what’s next on TV? I still followed activities in space over the coming decades. But honestly, I’ve been pretty disappointed. Ever since the moon landings, there hasn’t been much to inspire the next generation of astronauts.
That changed today in my opinion. The reason was that the whole launch was orchestrated, coordinated, and planned meticulously. Not only by the Engineers. Reflect if you will, on the build-up to this launch over the last few months. Think about it from the Marketing perspective. It quickly balloons from being simply a phenomenal Technological achievement to a brilliantly planned and executed Campaign! Sure, it helps tremendously that the launch was successful. But really that is incidental to the overall effect.
Becoming the most powerful working launch platform in the world will certainly capture the imagination of kids. Favorable comparisons with the largest launch vehicle ever built, the Saturn V, sounds like the makings of great backyard playtime competitions among the neighbors. Prepare yourself for YouTube videos of homemade launches from seesaws and giant slingshots.
Maybe putting his Tesla Roadster in orbit will help with that, too. Although I have to say that if inspiring the kids was one of the objectives, there should have been a small plastic T-Rex bobble-head on the dashboard of the Roadster. Sorry for the armchair quarterbacking.
What really got me thinking about this as a marketing campaign though, was the placement of cameras around the Tesla on board the ship, placing a manikin in a spacesuit at the wheel of the Roadster, and nicknaming him “Starman”. Although no human flew on this flight, Starman handily embodies the human interest story, giving focus to our humanity. The placement of the cameras and orientation of the vehicle, putting our lovely pale blue dot as the backdrop. Brilliant!
Finally, using music from the late David Bowie as the soundtrack, was sure to reel in many of the baby boomers who remember so much of his music with fondness, especially his Spiders From Mars phase. Bowie’s recent passing only underscores his influence on that audience. More brilliance from the SpaceX marketing team. Especially when considering these people could wield much influence over future government-funded space activity.
As a lifelong Techie, I marvel at the mastery of the SpaceX Engineering team. Well done you! And as I continue learning about Internet Marketing, I am left with the highest regard and deepest gratitude for the SpaceX Marketeers for what they’ve accomplished along so many different dimensions. Thank you!