Google searches for “UFO” and “Aliens” spiked as an eerie glowing cloud spread across the California night sky on Oct 7.
The hype surrounding the latest SpaceX rocket apparently hadn’t reached some Californians, who mistook the separation of the Falcon 9 rocket as an otherworldly event.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had tweeted the previous day: “This won’t be subtle.”
Dramatic video footage and photographs of the moment were shared across social media from users who knew the cause of the glowing clouds and streaks of red flame.
But at the exact time of the flight, Google search data shows a sharp spike in searches for “Alien” and “UFO.”
It was the first time that one of Elon Musk’s reusable rockets landed on the west coast, at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
SpaceX has pioneered the use of reusable rockets to launch satellites into space.
“Falcon 9 is the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight,” notes the SpaceX website. “SpaceX believes rocket reusability is the key breakthrough needed to reduce the cost of access to space and enable people to live on other planets.”
The rocket took just 12 minutes from take off before launching Argentina’s SAOCOM 1A satellite (pdf).
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted: “Nope, definitely not aliens.”
According to SpaceX, under the “pricing” tab of their website, every flight of the Falcon 9 sets customers back $62 million.
The Falcon 9 can carry a payload of up to 5.5 metric tons. For heavier items, there is the aptly named Falcon Heavy, with a payload of 8 metric tons, available for $90 million.
“Modest discounts are available, for contractually committed, multi-launch purchases,” notes the website.
In 2012 Falcon 9 became the first spacecraft from a commercial company ever to visit the International Space Station.
“Since then Falcon 9 has made numerous trips to space, delivering satellites to orbit as well as delivering and returning cargo from the space station for NASA,” according to SpaceX.