When SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy—its biggest rocket yet—into space on Tuesday, the world watched, mesmerized. And then, just a few hours later, they tuned in once again to watch Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster, newly launched from the Falcon Heavy, slowly begin its journey to Mars.
The live feed of the Roadster, shared by SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Twitter, showed a dummy sitting behind the wheel of the Tesla, along with a sign that read “DON’T PANIC!” on the car’s dashboard. Both had stories behind them: The dummy was nicknamed “Starman,” after David Bowie’s famous song, and the dashboard sign was a reference to Musk’s favorite novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
In the well-known novel, written by Douglas Adams, the hitchhiking guide‘s cover famously reads “Don’t Panic.” By putting the slogan in his space-exploring Roadster, Musk was definitely giving a hat tip to one of his favorite childhood books.
Take a peek at Starman and his decked-out dash in Musk’s tweet below:
View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
In the past, Musk has explained that “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was one of his favorite books as a teenager—and for very good reason. His love of the book was spurred on by a brief teenage existential crisis, he told Fresh Dialogues in 2014, and Adams did a better job of solving that internal crisis than Nietzsche or any other philosopher.
“I guess when I was around 12 or 15… I had an existential crisis, and I was reading various books on trying to figure out the meaning of life and what does it all mean?” he said, continuing:
It all seemed quite meaningless and then we happened to have some books by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in the house, which you should not read at age 14. It is bad, it’s really negative. So then I read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which is quite positive I think and it highlighted an important point which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. So, to the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask.
Talk about inspiration for exploring the universe—exactly as Starman and his Tesla Roadster are doing. Adams should definitely be proud.
[h/t: Business Insider]