The launch of Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday captivated much of the world. It also caused many Russians to suddenly see their own country’s shining history of space exploration in a cold new light.
After all, their country put the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in 1957, and the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into outer space four years later. But Musk launched a cherry-red Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun, where SpaceX has claimed it would stay for millions of years. (The car was originally headed for a path around Mars, but it overshot and is now headed toward the asteroid belt.)
Naturally, Russians reacted by launching memes about Russia’s current space program and general state of affairs on social media.
One Twitter user posted a decrepit playground spaceship under the caption, “your rocket.” And contrasted that with the Falcon Heavy as, “your mom’s friend’s son’s rocket.”
Meanwhile, on VK, Russia’s massively popular homegrown social network, one user posted pictures of Russian cosmonauts being blessed by a priest and asking, “When will we catch up with SpaceX?”
The priest mutters, “Quiet, quiet, kiss the cross.”
Some dove head-first into Russia's rising inequality and the excessive wealth among the country's billionaire elite. One user noted the millions of dollars and years of effort Musk has plowed into pioneering space technology, and lamented the comparison with the kinds of things Russia’s notorious 96 billionaires tend to spend their own money on.
His example: Roman Abramovich, the Russian oil-and-metals magnate who spent some $233 million buying the U.K. soccer team Chelsea.
Abramovich, who’s worth $11 billion according to Forbes magazine, also splashed out some $400 million for the world's second-largest yacht in 2010, which he named Eclipse, ironically enough.
Others used the SpaceX craze to poke fun at Moscow’s standard tit-for-tat diplomatic approach to disputes with Washington, with one user photoshopping a mobile missile launcher flying through the cosmos as Russia’s “symmetrical response.”
Another user posted Musk’s Starman driver getting pulled over by a Russian traffic cop — an event that, in real life, is all too likely to result in paying a bribe.
Still others found a way to accommodate Russian President Vladimir Putin's predilection for shirtless photo ops. One user photoshopped a shirtless Putin holding up the whole world by himself in the background, with the caption: “Here’s the photo Musk is hiding from us.”
Cover image: A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket trails flames after lifting off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Thom Baur)