SpaceX CEO Elon Musk debuted a new mini-documentary/music video Saturday night at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, showcasing last month’s successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. It’s a great little piece of myth-making — not surprising, considering it was put together by Jonathan Nolan, co-creator of HBO’s visionary Westworld.
The video shows, with elegant editing, the Florida crowds lined up to witness the launch, the preparation of the three massive engines and the rocket’s fiery ascent. It also shows the deployment of the Heavy’s payload, Musk’s Tesla Roadster and its spacesuited mannequin driver, as they start their long journey through the solar system.
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Nolan, in comments reported by The Verge, said he produced the video in part to inspire the public in the way he was inspired by Saturn rocket launches. He described the video as “a trailer,” but “it’s not a trailer for a movie. It’s not a trailer for a TV show. What we’re hoping this is is the trailer for one part of the next chapter of the human story.”
To help generate that kind of excitement, the video uses music from David Bowie – though it’s not “Starman,” the song that SpaceX named the Roadster’s spacesuited driver after. Instead, and perhaps even more appropriately, it’s the sweeping “Life on Mars,” from 1971’s Hunky Dory. The Falcon Heavy is part of Musk’s road map towards human colonization of Mars.
Nolan’s video isn’t just feel-good puffery, though — it briefly include’s the mission’s one failure, when the Heavy’s center booster plunks into the ocean instead of landing gracefully on an autonomous barge. But that misstep is entirely overshadowed by one of the video’s final images: the mind-boggling simultaneous landing of the rocket’s two outer boosters.