Quick Notes

  • SpaceX’s Starman has completed his first solar orbit behind the wheel of the Tesla Roadster

  • It took a total of 557 days for the orbit to reach completion

  • Starman will continue to orbit the sun for potentially millions of years

On February 6th, 2018, sat behind the wheel of Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, Starman launched into space to begin his journey orbiting the sun. Initially attached to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which made headlines of its own due to its enormous stature, Starman has made history of his own by completing a full lap of the sun.

It was estimated that Starman would take 557 Earth days to complete his solar orbit, and as of August 19th, 2019, Starman had been on his journey for a total of 560 days. Quite appropriately, Starman was named after the David Bowie song ‘Life On Mars,’ but we have a feeling the mannequin might be a little sick of that song by now.

On launch, the Tesla Roadster was playing ‘Life On Mars’ for novelty effect. If that radio is still in working order, and still blasting out Bowie’s greatest hits, Starman will have heard the song over 150,000 times. If he isn’t monitored closely, Starman might just drive himself into the sun out of desperation.

One small step for Tesla, one giant leap for advertisement

The novelty of Starman and his Tesla Roadster traveling around the sun does actually have many practical applications. Debut rocket launches are risky business, so when the Falcon Heavy rocket made its maiden voyage to the stars, it will have undergone a thorough risk assessment.

This may have been why the decision to attach a car and a mannequin to the rocket was made, as opposed to a live satellite or any technology far more difficult to replace. Not to mention the press Tesla received from this feat, which would undoubtedly be beneficial to CEO Elon Musk.

Pexels

Trivialities aside, the completion of this solar orbit is an extraordinary one, for sheer distance traveled if nothing else. According to the tracking site assigned to the mission (aptly named whereisroadster.com), Starman has now traveled an astonishing 1.2 billion kilometers (or 760 million miles) in his Tesla.

We certainly hope he doesn’t intend to sell his car afterward, as he’ll have exceeded his mileage warranty over 21,000 times. This isn’t the end of Starman’s journey, either. He will likely continue to orbit the sun for tens of millions of years. That’s a lot more David Bowie to listen to. Hang in there, Starman.

SpaceX takes recycling seriously, even their rockets

Since the Falcon Heavy’s first iconic take off, the gigantic rocket has achieved two more successful launches. The first of which was in April earlier this year, and on June 25th, the rocket completed a successful launch on behalf of the United States Air Force.

Like many of the other spacecraft creations SpaceX has introduced, the Falcon Heavy is intended to be reusable. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened entirely successfully as of yet. The boosters and the central core of these rockets are supposed to land back on Earth to be used once more. To this date, this has not happened.

There can be no denying the success of Starman’s solar joyride

In the February 2018 test flight, the first stage boosters did return to Earth, but the central core did not. This same occurrence happened in the June launch too. In the April launch, the boosters and central core returned to Earth successfully, but unfortunately, the core ended up lost at sea.

Despite the complications regarding SpaceX’s intentions of creating successfully reusable rockets, there can be no denying the success of Starman’s solar joyride. He may return to Earth one day, but it’ll be millions of years into the future, and even then, there’s only a six percent chance of him landing on the blue marble, so don’t worry about reserving him a parking space.

A deeper dive – Related reading on the 101

If Starman stops off at the nearest space station, he might want to take a look at this first

Before there was Starman, there was Bean. Alan Bean. Read about his astounding career here!

Careful Starman, there might be slight traffic ahead due to your classic neutron star disasters