In 2018, Elon Musk demonstrated the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch system with a successful test flight that also sent Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster from 2008 into space, complete with a spacesuit-clad mannequin called Starman in the driver’s seat. Now, more than two years later, Starman and his cherry-red car have arrived on Mars. Back in October, SpaceX shared on social media that Starman had made his first close approach to the red planet.
“Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made his first close approach to Mars today – within 0.05 astronomical units, or less than 5 million miles, from the red planet,” wrote the SpaceX post.
Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made his first close approach to Mars today ̵1; within 0.05 astronomical units, or less than 5 million miles, from Red Planet pic.twitter.com/gV8barFTm7
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 7, 2020
What is interesting here is that SpaceX notes that this is the “first close approach” with Mars, and it is actually expected that Spaceman will come even closer in the future. According to Ben Pearson, who developed an unofficial online tracker for Starman and the Roadster (via CNET), Tesla will pass at a much, nearly 1.4 miles distance on April 22, 2035. It will get past the earth in 2047.
While it’s fascinating that the Roadster comes so close to Mars, do not expect any photos to come from the close encounters. While there are cameras on both the inside and outside of the vehicle, the vehicle’s battery has long since run out. Musk had originally calculated that the Roadster battery would last for more than 12 hours, but it actually seemed to work for 4, which means that Starman has just been out in space in silence since then.
And both Starman and Roadster probably look quite different than they did in the last photos sent back to Earth. Live Science noted earlier that the harsh solar radiation in the room had probably already dissolved most of the exposed organic materials – think things like red paint, tires, leather seats, etc. Finally, it is assumed that the Roadster will be reduced to just an aluminum frame and maybe some of the glass, provided that they survive steadily with passing rocks and debris.
What do you think of Starman’s continued journey in space? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.