SpaceX recently launched the Falcon Heavy into space while carrying Elon Musk's car to be sent into orbit around Mars. (News article reference) During the launch, footage was shown of a space suit wearing mannequin in the front seat of the Tesla, while earth is visible in the background. enter image description here

As you can see, around the dashboard of the car there are the words "DON'T PANIC!" and I am sure it is a reference to something sci-fi related but can't think of what.

My question is: What is this a reference to?

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    I've downvoted. Finding out is so trivially simple that it suggests you made zero research effort. – Valorum Feb 7 at 0:44
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    I've upvoted this question because, although it's "obvious" to sci-fi buffs like us, it's something that a lot of people will be searching for, so it's a useful question to have on the site. (cc @Valorum) – Rand al'Thor Feb 7 at 0:44
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    Info about the launch mentions that a copy of H2G2 is in the glovebox, along with a towel. – Verdan Feb 7 at 18:41
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    @Randal'Thor Valorum's downvote wasn't because the answer is obvious (to some), it was because finding the answer is easy (e.g. the Wikipedia article is the first hit when you search the phrase "don't panic", and the first hit on "don't panic elon musk car" reveals the connection between the two). This is one of the three reasons for downvoting given when you hover over the downvote button (lacks research). – JBentley Feb 7 at 23:29
up vote 91 down vote accepted

It's from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It even has its own entry on the Wikipedia page for H2G2:

In the series, Don't Panic is a phrase on the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The novel explains that this was partly because the device "looked insanely complicated" to operate, and partly to keep intergalactic travellers from panicking.

From the first book in the series:

It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words 'DON'T PANIC' in large, friendly letters on the cover.

enter image description here

Don't Panic is so well known as an H2G2 slogan that it's even the title of the official companion book by Neil Gaiman.

In fact, "Don't Panic" isn't the only H2G2 reference going on here ...

  • I am accepting this answer because it beat @Tim 's answer by a mere 2 seconds! - That being said they are both great and each provide a unique insight to different aspects of the reference. – Jesse Feb 7 at 1:13
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    I wonder if the number 42 is referenced anywhere in/on the Falcon Heavy, or its test payload (the car and its "driver") – Anthony X Feb 7 at 4:33
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    @AnthonyX See latest edit :-) – Rand al'Thor Feb 8 at 2:09

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a.k.a H2G2).

In the original radio series of H2G2, Arthur Dent is looking at the cover of the in-Universe book, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which says: Don't Panic.

Arthur: Don't Panic. That's the first helpful or intelligible thing anyone's said to me all day.

Ford Prefect: That's why it sells so well.

The phrase is so popular it even has its own logo:

enter image description here

Though existing answers have firmly established the origin of the phrase, the logo itself is actually a later incarnation.

The original was on the cover of the audio vinyl album, released in 1979 by Original Records.

enter image description here

Source http://www.chickensinenvelopes.net/hitchhikers-guide/
& Amazon

A very similar logo was on the back cover of the original UK edition of the first HHGTTG book.
Both were 1979, I'm struggling to find exactly which of the 2 was actually the first released, but both covers were done by Hipgnosis so the shared logo style has a common source.

enter image description here

Rather iffy scan of my own copy of the book ;)

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    I don't think he gave it so much thought. Musk just wanted to write those words, without using any special theme. :) – Shadow Wizard Feb 7 at 8:31
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    For sure - I was just being 'completist' for the sci-fi buffs ;) – Tetsujin Feb 7 at 8:34

In fact, much as fans of the originality that made HHGTTG a hit might wish otherwise, the phrase was already part of UK popular culture at the time of publication. Seventies prime time sitcom Dads Army featured a character called Corporal Jones, who would usually panic whenever a minor issue came up while - here's the comedy - rushing around shouting "Don't panic!! Don't panic!!". I'm pretty sure Elon will be referencing the HHGTTG though.

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    Of course "don't panic" has been a phrase in English far longer than H2G2. But in a specifically sci-fi-ish context ... – Rand al'Thor Feb 8 at 12:30
  • There's a difference between a phrase being in use and it being a part of popular culture, a meme. Almost any English person over the age of fifty would - in the 1970s - have interpreted someone saying "Don't panic!!!" as a reference to Corporal Jones. It was nearly always voiced in the way that the sitcom character would render it. It was used much less often in any other way, simply because "Don't panic!!" would be associated with comedy rather than with any actual and serious need to avoid panicking. – Geoff Kendall Feb 19 at 11:25

protected by Edlothiad Feb 8 at 12:27

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