With SpaceX’s latest redesign of their BFR rocket-spaceship, which Elon Musk proudly released to the public on September 17, it would appear that Tintin holds a special place in Musk’s heart.
The new and improved BFR bears more than a passing resemblance to the rocket that Tintin used to get to the moon in the 1950 comic book Destination Moon, by beloved Belgian cartoonist Hergé.
SpaceX’s new BFR spaceship, which is suitable for up to 100 people, is considerably longer than its previous incarnation of 157.5 feet, and has now been pushed out to 180 feet in length. According to Space, instead of separate fin and landing-leg systems, the BFR now has three actuated fins which can also helpfully be used as landing pads.
It is these three rear fins that have helped to make the BFR spaceship look so very much like Tintin’s moon rocket, something that Elon Musk counts as a good thing.
“I think this design is probably on par with the other one. It might be better. It’s slightly riskier technically, because of coupling legs and sort of the actuating wing-fin flaps. But I think it’s the right decision overall. I think it looks beautiful. I love the Tintin rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it towards that. If in doubt, go with Tintin.”
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) September 19, 2018
Of course, Elon Musk has long enjoyed paying tribute to those who have inspired him, with SpaceX naming two of their spaceport drone ships Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions, which were based on ships created by science fiction writer Iain M. Banks.
When the Tesla Roadster was carried off into space by the Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this year, the mannequin sitting inside was named Starman and the David Bowie song “Space Oddity” was blasting from the vehicle, despite there being no actual sound audible out in space. On the dashboard of this Roadster there have also been instructions given, saying, “Don’t panic!” which comes straight from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Besides Bowie and Douglas Adams, this Roadster also contains Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy on a quartz disc that is now nestled snugly inside the car’s glove compartment. As Musk noted, “Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series is a key inspiration for SpaceX.”
I'm a huge Tintin fan. My first Tintin comic was 'Explorers on the moon'. Perhaps on the first BFR moon mission, it can look like Tintin's rocket. Can't wait! pic.twitter.com/Rv5bIYBShz
— ignordamus (@ignordamus) September 14, 2018
While SpaceX’s new BFR spaceship may not be colored with the same red and white checkered pattern that is displayed on the rocket that Tintin and his friends took to the moon, it is still exceedingly similar in both spirit and design.