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Five Years After SpaceX Launched A Tesla To Space, Where Is It Now?

And will it crash into Earth?

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

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Tesla Roadster with Earth in background

Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons, CC0 1.0

Five years ago yesterday, Elon Musk's SpaceX launched a Tesla into space, in a stunt that even the most hardened Musk haters would grudgingly admit is pretty cool. 

The Roadster has since been on one hell of a journey, driving away from Earth at the impressive speed of 26,619 kilometers per hour (16,540 miles per hour), with an arguably more impressive fuel efficiency of 8,511.4 kilometers per liter (20,020 miles per gallon). 

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Since its launch on February 6, 2018, the car has orbited the Sun 3.3 times according to tracker Where Is Roadster, rolling as it goes.

The Roadster, assuming it isn't eroded by radiation or unlucky enough to get into the solar system's first space car crash (say with a meteorite), will continue in its orbit for a long time, crossing the orbit of Mars and Earth as it does so.

Though the car has not been tracked closely, in 2018 a paper did look at its orbit in an attempt to work out its fate. According to the paper, published in the journal Aerospace, the car will make a close approach to Earth in the next 100 years, coming closer to Earth than the Moon orbits. 

On a much longer timescale, the team calculated that the car has roughly a 22 percent probability of hitting Earth, a 12 percent chance of colliding with Venus, and about the same probability of hitting the Sun as hitting Venus. Fortunately for Musk, this will happen on a timescale of millions of years, and is unlikely to affect Tesla stock prices.

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The Starman placed in the vehicle, assuming it is still intact and somehow achieves sentience, may pray for a sooner impact. While traveling through space, the dummy has listened to David Bowie's Space Oddity 496,287 times in one ear, and David Bowie's Life On Mars? has played in his other ear 668,726 times.


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