Back in February 2018, Elon Musk launched the Falcon Heavy Rocket with a Tesla Roadster perched on top of it to outer space with a mannequin at the wheel named ‘Starman’. Starman in his Roadster has now flown past Mars a few days ago.
Elon Musk, the eccentric CEO of Tesla Inc., has always been up to crazy things and one of the craziest things he has ever done was sending a Tesla Roadster aboard a rocket to outer space. Back in February 2018, Musk sent a Tesla Roadster aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket to outer space with a mannequin at the wheel of the car, dubbed the ‘Starman’. Well, it turns out that the Tesla Roadster has just flown past Mars a few days ago, 32 months on since its was launched.
The rocket was launched by SpaceX, the rocket company also founded by Musk, and the ‘Starman’ at the wheel was even sent wearing a spacesuit. In its storage, the Tesla Roadster carries a hot wheel model of itself along with a miniature Starman as well. Also in the storage is the sci-fi novel “The Fondation” by Isaac Asimov and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” by Douglas Adams with a towel and a sign that says “Don’t Panic”. The car’s speakers even played the song ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie out there is space.
The rocket has since reached its second stage and has been gliding through space without any fuel propelling it. The Tesla Roadster remains perched on top of it. “It’s a rocket stage with a hood ornament,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center. The rocket was originally supposed to slip into an circular orbit between Mars and the Sun. However, the mission overshot and the rocket is now following an elliptical path, which will take it far past the Martian orbit, towards the asteroid belt.
The trajectory of the rocket has taken it past the Martian orbit before, but at the time, the red planet was nowhere near the Starman’s trajectory. However, with this recent encounter, the Starman would have seen the red planet about 1/10th the size of the moon as we see it from Earth. Also, neither the Tesla nor the Falcon rocket have any communication with Earth. The path was thus calculated by McDowell based on the last data available as it left Earth. He used the same gravitational date that NASA uses to steer its space probes and calculated that the Starman passed the red planet from a distance of about 7.4 million kilometers.
The Starman is thus too far away to get a close view of the Martian surface. McDowell said, “If you were doing a flyby mission, that would be considered a failure. It would be too far to get decent pictures. You could however see that Mars was round.” He added, “Its interesting that it comes that close.” It has also been calculated that the Tesla Roadster may crash into Earth, Venus or the Sun sometime in the next 10 million years.