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Musk sends Tesla car on billion-year space journey

media SpaceX's Falcon Heavy takes off from Cape Canaveral REUTERS/Steve Nesius

The world's most powerful space rocket, the Falcon Heavy, has successfully put a Tesla sports car into solar orbit. The rocket was launched by the private space exploration company SpaceX, run by the billionaire Elon Musk. The company hopes to use the rocket to send components for a colony on Mars - one of Musk's pet projects.

SpaceX's webcast showed the Tesla Roadster soaring into space on Tuesday, as David Bowie's Space Oddity played in the background.

The words "DON'T PANIC" were visible on the dashboard, a reference to the sci-fi novel the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The Falcon Heavy launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the same Nasa pad that was the base for the Apollo-era Moon missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of spaceX's smaller, Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, adding up to a total of 27 engines.

It is designed to carry up to a 64-tonne payload into orbit -- more than the mass of a fully loaded 737 jetliner.

After surviving a five-hour journey through the Van Allen Belt -- a region of high radiation -- the car now embarks on a journey through space that could last a billion years and take it as far as 250,400 million kilometres from Earth, the same as a trip around the equator 10,000 times.

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