Starman just made another flyby of Mars in his Tesla Roadster

Shane McGlaun - Oct 10, 2020, 12:13pm CDT
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Starman just made another flyby of Mars in his Tesla Roadster

One of the craziest things that Elon Musk has done in his days at SpaceX is to shoot his own Tesla Roadster into space. The car left Earth atop the very first Falcon 9 Heavy rocket that the company ever launched. The vehicle has been orbiting the sun ever since.

This week Starman made its closest flyby of Mars when it came within 5 million miles of the planet. The Roadster is in an elliptical orbit around the sun. Astronomer Jonathan Dowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that at that distance, Mars would appear about 1/10 the diameter of the Moon. That means it would be small, but not just a point of light in the sky as we see it from Earth.

The astronomer also noted that in 2047 Starman would pass about 5 million kilometers from the Earth. That’s too far away to be able to resolve the vehicle as an object. Starman and his trusty ride have so far completed a bit less than two orbits around the Sun. The vehicle passed Mars for the first time back in November 2018.

The car is currently about 37 million miles from Earth and has traveled nearly 1.3 billion miles since it was put in orbit. The vehicle will orbit the sun between Earth and Mars for millions of years to come. That is assuming it doesn’t crash into one of the planets. Estimates are that there is a six percent chance it will crash into the Earth at some point in the future.

SpaceX stays busy sending resupply missions to the ISS and getting ready for its first crewed mission in the coming months. It’s also busy launching Starlink satellites into orbit with the most recent launch on October 6 and sending 60 new satellites into space.


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