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SpaceX Launchpad Deimos is Named After an Ancient Greek Deity


The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft being recovered in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Billionaire Elon Musk is notorious for his sense of humor and his penchant for mixing his taste in internet memes with his various business and technology ventures — to varying success — but his most recent project is a stark departure from that tendency: Musk has decided to name his new SpaceX project after the ancient Greek deity Deimos.

The South African inventor has been developing a starship that could potentially take the human race to Mars with his aerospace company SpaceX, and the launch platform for the project is being referred to as Deimos, the name of a Martian moon that is derived from the ancient Greek “personal god” of dread and terror.

In ancient Greek mythology a personal god is a deity that one can relate to as if they were also human and interact with them in that form.

SpaceX’s Deimos now preparing for launch

SpaceX’s Deimos spaceport is an offshore platform created from a reconverted oil rig purchased by Musk and his company. The company has another former-oil rig platform known as Phobos — who was the twin brother of Deimos in Greek mythology.

Although the ocean launchpads look stunning, the rockets themselves have experienced a few hiccups on their journey to launch: some test prototypes have been known to explode on their way back down to the ground during trials, and only one has reportedly landed back to the ground successfully, before later exploding as well.

Despite this, Musk says they should be ready for their launch by next year. A 3D rendering of Deimos was reposted to Twitter by Musk with the announcement.

What role does Deimos play in ancient Greek mythology?

Deimos is the son of Aries and Aphrodite. He and his twin brother Phobos are not seen as distinct gods, but are rather extensions of their father Aries, the god of war.

They visit humans in the flesh and embody the feelings of anxiety that come with battle, Deimos embodying the dread and terror that consumed warriors in anticipation of a battle, and Phobos manifesting the panic and fear that settles in when one is in the throws of combat fighting for their life.

The brothers are depicted with their father Aries across many notable battles in ancient Greek mythology.

They can be seen in battles in the Iliad with the goddess of discord Eris, in the Shield of Herakles helping remove Aries from the battlefield after he is injured by Herakles, and in Dionysiaca they are given thunder and lightening by Zeus in order to ward off the giant sea serpent Typhoon.

Musk is not the first person to pay homage to the brothers in popular culture. Deimos specifically has been used as a character and archetype across many modern forms, including the 2009 animated “Wonder Woman” film, the television show Xena: the Warrior Princess, and the video games God of War: King of Sparta and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, respectively.

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