The day after launching a used orbital rocket booster for the first time, tech mogul Elon Musk took to Twitter to tease the future of his aerospace company, SpaceX.
On March 30, SpaceX fired off one of its Falcon 9 rockets and delivered a satellite into orbit about 22,230 miles (35,790 kilometers) above Earth. The major feat of the mission was that its booster — the most expensive part of an orbital-class rocket — flew a year earlier. All others of its kind have crashed into the ocean or the ground, never to be used again.
Musk told his 8 million Twitter followers on March 31 that the maiden flight of SpaceX’s larger and more powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy, is “currently scheduled for late summer.” The new rocket will incorporate three reusable boosters and should be capable of sending a small crew to the moon.
Musk also reminded everyone that he once launched a wheel of cheese into space.
Most maiden flights don’t carry anything valuable in the payload, since the risk of catastrophe is so high.
However, SpaceX is known for its secret payloads — which prompted a question from Twitter user @Cardoso: “no chance in hell on telling us what will be the test payload, right?”
Musk responded: “Silliest thing we can imagine! Secret payload of 1st Dragon flight was a giant wheel of cheese. Inspired by a friend & Monty Python.”
The cheese launch Musk referred to happened on December 8, 2010, on the maiden flight of the first version of SpaceX’s Dragon space capsule.
NASA funded that launch as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. The spacecraft orbited Earth twice, then reentered the atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX recovered the capsule.
The spaceship didn’t carry any astronauts or cargo, but SpaceX teased that it had carried a “secret payload” into space.
Musk refused to tell the press what that mystery item was right after the launch, but SpaceX revealed the next day that there was a big wheel of cheese inside the Dragon — the Le Brouere variety, according to The LA Times.
You can watch the “Cheese Shop” comedy sketch that (somehow) started it all below.