“This is Ground Control to Major Tom.” SpaceX has confirmed that Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster has cruised beyond the orbit of Mars. The vehicle’s orbit is now bringing it back towards Earth.
Launching a Tesla Roadster into space
In 2007, Elon Musk announced that because of the risky launch, it would contain the “silliest thing we can imagine.” On February 6, 2018, SpaceX performed its inaugural launch of the colossal Falcon Heavy rocket. The rocket’s cargo included Musk’s personal 2008-model Roadster, the vehicle he used to commute to work. The car became the first road vehicle in space.
Sitting in the driver’s seat is a mannequin dawning a SpaceX pressure space suit nicknamed “Starman.” In addition, a Hot Wheels miniature version of the roadster with a tiny Starman was mounted on the dashboard.
The Tesla Roadster’s unique features
The inanimate astronaut was named after the David Bowie song “Starman.” SpaceX went a step further to ensure the song “Space Oddity” would be played on a continuous loop through the car’s sound system.
A copy of Douglas Adams’ 1979 novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was placed in the glovebox. A reference to the book is the in the form of a sign on the dashboard reading “DON’T PANIC!” The circuit board contains the message “Made on Earth by humans.” And finally, a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy was added to a high-density 5D optical disc.
Starman’s remaining journey
The launch and initial orbit were streamed live using various cameras mounted on the vehicle. The car and booster reached a heliocentric orbit crossing the path of Mars. Earlier this month, the Tesla reached a distance from the Sun exceeding the total orbital distance of the red planet itself. The car is believed to be mostly deteriorated due to radiation and will intersect Earth’s orbit once again in August 2019.