Even Elon Musk can still be impressed by the size of his company's rockets.
The SpaceX CEO recently retweeted a video, produced by the California-based production studio Corridor Crew. The video, which Musk called "cool," features visual effects (VFX) artist Wren Weichman attempting to translate the massive size of a Falcon 9 rocket into something the human brain can comprehend.
So, just how large is a Falcon 9? By the numbers, the Falcon stands 230 feet (70 meters) tall, or roughly the height of a 21-story building. But how large is that? Human brains have a hard time creating an accurate mental image of massive objects without some sense of scale. That's where the filmmakers came in. [The Evolution of SpaceX's Rockets in Pictures]
Most people have never seen a rocket up close, so it's incredibly difficult to comprehend exactly how large 230 feet is with nothing but a featureless sky as the backdrop (as seen in most rocket photos and videos).
In the video, Weichman provides excellent insight into these incredible feats of engineering. Flexing his VFX muscles, he uses a combination of 3D modeling and computer animation to place the rockets in everyday locations, illustrating just how massive these spacecraft really are.
By putting the fleet of SpaceX rockets — Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and even the upcoming BFR Mars craft — in an office building or next to the Statue of Liberty and other recognizable backdrops, Weichman helps us better appreciate the scale of SpaceX's creations.
Try imagining a 21-story building flying through the air at speeds of over 17,000 mph (27,000 km/h). Pretty hard to do, right? And the Falcon Heavy rocket is not even the largest rocket that will be in SpaceX's arsenal. The company's 348-foot-tall (107 m) BFR (or Big Falcon Rocket), which could one day carry humans to Mars, is taller than the Statue of Liberty and as wide as a London bus is long.
And that's just the beginning. Who knows what the rockets of the future may look like?
"As big as these rockets are, we may see rockets that are even larger," says the video's host, Wren Weichman. "I mean, the BFR is still not as large as the Saturn V rocket, which took us to the moon — and we built that 50 years ago."
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Amy Thompson is a Florida-based space and science journalist, who joined Space.com as a contributing writer in 2015. She's passionate about all things space and is a huge science and science-fiction geek. Star Wars is her favorite fandom, with that sassy little droid, R2D2 being her favorite. She studied science at the University of Florida, earning a degree in microbiology. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, VICE, Smithsonian, and many more. Now she chases rockets, writing about launches, commercial space, space station science, and everything in between.