To follow Elon Musk’s Twitter feed on Tuesday as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off from its launch pad was to enter into the zany, geeky, mettlesome, and inspirational world of the South African-born tech entrepreneur.
私人太空公司SpaceX的猎鹰重型火箭(Falcon Heavy)周二从发射台升空时，关注埃隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)在Twitter上发的帖子就像进入了这位生于南非的科技企业家古怪、“极客范”、无畏而又鼓舞人心的世界。
All through the day SpaceX’s founder kept his 19m followers updated on the flight profile of the company’s huge rocket and the delays to the countdown caused by excessive high-altitude winds.
Then, soon after the 27-engine rocket roared into space, he tweeted near-surreal footage of one of his red Tesla Roadster cars with a dummy astronaut strapped onboard orbiting the Earth. This brazen cross-promotion for the car company Mr Musk also founded was variously interpreted as one of the most expensive, or cheapest, mass advertising campaigns in history.
“We’re doing OK for a bunch of monkeys. Humanity rocks!” Mr Musk tweeted.
Adopting a more restrained tone in response to President Donald Trump, who was quick to send a congratulatory tweet, Mr Musk replied: “Thank you on behalf of SpaceX. An exciting future lies ahead!”
Behind all the quirky bravado stands a stunning technological achievement.
The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to be launched since the Saturn V programme took astronauts to the Moon. The dramatic and safe return of two of the Falcon Heavy’s three boosters was also a noteworthy feat, promising to cut the cost of future launches.
The success opens the way for a manned mission around the Moon by two paying astronauts, although SpaceX appears to be tiptoeing away from its original timetable that this would take place before the end of the year. It also marks a significant step towards Mr Musk’s ultimate ambition: to land on Mars. That mission, though, will depend on the success of SpaceX’s next rocket design, known with frat-boy humour as the BFR (or Big F***ing Rocket), due to be launched in the mid-2020s.
此次成功为下一步将两名旅客送上月球的载人任务开辟了道路，尽管SpaceX似乎正在偏离原定于今年底之前实现这一目标的时间表。这也标志着向马斯克的终极目标——登陆火星迈出了重要一步。不过，这一任务将取决于SpaceX被戏称为BFR(Big Fucking Rocket)的下一款火箭的成功。
The US space establishment was initially wary of tech billionaires such as Mr Musk and the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, when they first declared their ambitions to run their own private space programmes. But Nasa quickly came to admire the highly innovative and hard-charging attitude that these entrepreneurs have brought to the business. Such has been Nasa’s faith in Mr Musk that it has even granted SpaceX a licence to operate from the hallowed ground of Launchpad 39A, the site from which Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off to the Moon in 1969.
当马斯克、亚马逊(Amazon)创始人杰夫·贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)等科技亿万富翁首次宣布开展私人太空项目的雄心时，美国太空当局起初对他们心存警惕。但美国国家航空航天局(NASA)很快就开始称赞这些企业家为太空事业带来的高度创新和进取心十足的精神。NASA对马斯克如此有信心，甚至给予SpaceX许可证，允许其使用具有历史意义的肯尼迪航天中心39A发射台(Launchpad 39A)，即尼尔·阿姆斯特朗(Neil Armstrong)、巴兹·奥尔德林(Buzz Aldrin)和迈克尔·科林斯(Michael Collins) 1969年登月时的发射台。
So many people have now bought into Mr Musk’s extraordinary vision that it might be sensible to apply a discount to his accomplishments. Certainly, the $57bn stock market value of Tesla Motors, his lossmaking car company that delivered just over 100,000 vehicles last year, would appear to defy financial gravity. And the failed deployment of a spy satellite following its launch on a Falcon 9 rocket on January 7 also highlighted the periodic fallibility of the SpaceX programme, although the company has said its rocket functioned perfectly.
现在有这么多的人为马斯克的非凡愿景所折服，也许给他的成就打点折扣是理智的。当然，马斯克旗下去年仅交付10多万辆汽车且处于亏损中的特斯拉(Tesla Motors) 570亿美元的市值，似乎是有违金融规律。1月7日，猎鹰9号火箭搭载的一颗间谍卫星部署失败也凸显出SpaceX项目不时会出现问题，尽管该公司称其火箭表现完美。
It used to be said of Steve Jobs that Apple’s monomaniacal founder conjured up his own “reality distortion field”, in whose thrall people suspended their disbelief. Much the same can be said of Mr Musk.
过去人们常说苹果公司有些偏执狂的创始人史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)创造了自己的“现实扭力场”(reality distortion field)，陷身其中的人会停止质疑。同样的说法也可适用于马斯克。
But whatever the occasional distortions, the underlying reality behind both entrepreneurs’ achievements is impressive and indisputable.