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SpaceX launched a Tesla sports car into space five years ago. Where is he now?

2023-02-06T22:19:42.981Z


Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster has been floating in space for half a decade now, where it is expected to spend millennia.


This February 8, 2018 distribution photo from SpaceX shows the Tesla roadster after it was launched atop a Falcon Heavy rocket with a fictional driver named "Starman."

Credit: SpaceX/Getty Images

(CNN) --

It's been half a decade since SpaceX was on everyone's lips for its decision to launch Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster into outer space, sending the sports car on an endless journey into the cosmic wilderness, where it expected to last for millennia.


Now this Monday, February 6, the cherry-colored sports car officially celebrates having been in space for exactly five years.

By the time of its anniversary, estimated data indicates that it had completed about three and a quarter orbits around the Sun and was about 200 million miles from Earth, according to the tracking website whereisroadster.com.

The roadster has traveled more than 4 billion kilometers in space, for the most part through a barren vacuum.

However, in 2020, the rover made its first approach to Mars, passing within 8 million kilometers of the planet, or about 20 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

However, it is difficult to say with absolute certainty where the vehicle is, or to determine if it is still intact, as it may have been dented or destroyed by a meteoroid or eroded beyond recognition by radiation.

There has been no direct observation of the roadster since 2018, in the weeks immediately after it was launched into orbit aboard a 1.3 million-kilogram Falcon Heavy rocket.

Current data is based solely on calculated estimates of the vehicle's path.

Astronomers don't have much incentive to actively follow the car, since it doesn't offer much scientific value.

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Ultimately, the Tesla was meant to serve as a disposable "dummy payload" for the Falcon Heavy's first mission in February 2018, a launch that even Musk had predicted would only have a 50% chance of success.

But after all, the launch went smoothly.

And the rover has been circling the Sun ever since, taking an oblong path that oscillates as far as the orbital path of Mars and as close to the Sun as Earth's orbit.

As of Monday, the rover's path intersected the path of Mars, even though the planet itself was on the opposite side of the Sun.

Prior to its 2018 launch, SpaceX loaded the vehicle with various nods to elements of popular culture.

Behind the wheel was a mannequin dressed in a space suit, nicknamed Starman, and on the dashboard was a sign reading "Don't Panic," a reference to the famous science fiction story "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

There was also a data storage device loaded with the works of science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and a plaque with the names of thousands of SpaceX employees.

  • Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster has its first approach to Mars

Musk said at the time of the launch that he hoped humans would one day establish settlements on other planets in the solar system, an old Musk fantasy that also underpins SpaceX's stated mission to colonize Mars.

When that happens, Musk said he hopes his "descendants can take the roadster to a museum."

For now, though, the roadster isn't likely to pass close to another planet until 2035, when it will brush Mars again.

It will then make two passes within a few million kilometers of Earth in 2047 and 2050, according to NASA data.

A 2018 academic paper also estimated the chances of it colliding with Earth in the next 15 million years to be around 22%.

The chances of it colliding with Venus or the Sun are 12% each.

If the car finally crashes into Earth, we'll have to wait for it to shatter as it hits the thick atmosphere.

(Actually, space objects colliding with Earth are quite common and often burn up in the atmosphere during entry. They rarely hit populated areas.)

To keep track of the roadster's predicted location, it has its own entry in NASA's Horizons database, which tracks every "body" in the solar system, including exploration probes, planets, moons, comets, and spacecraft. asteroids.

The Tesla is listed as object -143205, "SpaceX Roadster (spacecraft) (Tesla)".

To see a simulation of Tesla's orbit (based on Horizons data), visit OrbitSimulator.com and search for "roadster."

Source: cnnespanol

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