Five years ago, SpaceX launched a Roadster into space. Where is it now?
By Ameya Paleja,2023-02-07
On February 6, 2018, SpaceX launched a Tesla roadster and a spacesuit-clad mannequin into space onboard its Falcon Heavy rocket. Presuming that the harshness of space hasn't decimated the duo, the question is, where is the payload five years since its launch? The answer will blow your mind.
Back in 2018, SpaceX had just begun to demonstrate its reliability as a launch provider shoring up newly awarded contracts. However, its Falcon Heavy rocket was still in the works, and SpaceX needed a dummy payload to test it. This became the genesis of Starman, a mannequin in a space suit, who occupied the driver's seat on the red Tesla roadster.
Where are Roadster and Starman now?
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had said at that time that the company pegged the success rate of the launch at 50 percent. The launch, however, went off without trouble, and the Roadster and Starman began around the Sun, of which they have nearly completed four orbits.
According to the website whereisroadster.com, which has been tracking the payload since the launch, the Roadster travels in an oblong orbit which at its nearest comes to the Earth's orbit and goes as far as the orbit of Mars.
In fact, on its fifth anniversary on Monday, the Roadster intersected Mars' orbit. However, the Red Planet was on the other side of the Sun. According to NASA, it won't be until 2035 that the car and its occupant will come close to Mars, but it will only be in 2047 and 2050 that it will come closest to Earth again.
Researchers have even tried to estimate the probability of the car crashing into the Earth. As per a non-peer-reviewed paper, there is a 22 percent chance that it will in the next 15 million years. The object will likely burn up in the atmosphere without causing much damage, or we will have better means of diverting it when it arrives.
So far, the Roadster has already traveled more than 2.5 billion miles (four billion km) in space. This is 70,000 times the distance for which Tesla's warranty is valid and the equivalent of driving all of the world's roads 63 times, the Roadster tracking website says.
Starman, who was provided with two pieces of music, one in each ear for the journey, may have listened to Space Oddity nearly 500,000 times and Is There Life on Mars over almost 670,000 times, in case the battery of the car is still working.
Unfortunately, SpaceX did not equip the payload with cameras that could provide us with its feed. So, to spot the car, we need to build a telescope with a diameter of 48,032 ft (14,640 m) to see the Roadster from Earth. Maybe SpaceX should build this next.
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