#ElonMusk #SpaceX – SpaceX founder Musk endeavors to find perfect starship name : If SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s plan to establish a city on Mars sounds like science fiction, then consider the name of his first passenger ship.
The answer lies in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the comic series about the travels and travails of Earth’s last surviving man. Musk is leaning toward the name “Heart of Gold,” the starship in the novel with Infinite Improbability Drive.
“I like the fact that it’s driven by Infinite Improbability,” Musk said in presenting his long-awaited Mars colonization plan this week, “because I think our ship is also extremely improbable.” “But the acronym is not the best,” he chuckled.
All aboard the HOG? The name generated applause at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, where Musk provided elaborate details of his bold plans to fly scores of humans to Mars and set up a self-sustaining city with 1 million people, as big as San Jose, Calif.
For the past decade, Musk has borrowed from science fiction and fantasy when naming his rockets, capsules and other space doodads. Another billionaire’s aerospace startup, Blue Origin, pays homage to America’s original Mercury astronauts with its names. Long-established NASA and United Launch Alliance prefer mythology and astronomy.
Musk already has plumbed “Star Wars” for names, as well as work by the late Scottish science fiction writer Iain M. Banks. SpaceX’s Falcon rocket is a nod to the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han Solo. It’s powered by Merlin engines.
Then there are the two ocean platforms used for booster landings after liftoff: “Just Read the Instructions” and “Of Course I Still Love You” from Banks’ 1988 novel “The Player of Games.”
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” dates back further; the late English author Douglas Adams published the novel in 1979, based on his hit radio series. And there’s the Dragon capsule currently used to haul cargo to the International Space Station for NASA and, in another year or two, U.S. astronauts.
The capsule was named for “Puff the Magic Dragon,” a jab at those who scoffed when Musk founded the company in 2002 and set the space bar exceedingly high. SpaceX went on to become the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and return it safely to Earth in 2010.
NASA traditionally has dipped into mythology for names: Projects Mercury and Apollo, and the Saturn V moon rocket. The space shuttles were named after seafaring ships of yore: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.
Shuttle prototype Enterprise was the exception, named after the “Star Trek” starship at fans’ request. United Launch Alliance also favors mythology, with its longtime Atlas rocket and even bigger, still-in-development Vulcan.