Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster and Starman Have Completed Their First Trip Around the Sun
About 18 months ago, SpaceX launched a first-generation Tesla Roadster into orbit with a spacesuit-clad dummy aboard for the ride. Recently, the mannequin passenger—affectionately coined “Starman”—completed his first rotation around the sun and is en route to the end of the universe.
Starman began his ascent to the stars in February 2018 as the test payload for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. He was carefully placed into the driver’s seat of company CEO Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster and launched into space with the car’s radio tuned into David Bowie’s 1969 hit, Space Oddity. And so the journey to nowhere began, just a spaceman and his car.
Data from the site tracking Starman’s whereabouts shows that the Roadster completed its first orbit in one year, six months, and 12 days after it was first launched into space. In total, it has traveled more than 763 million miles at the time of writing and is currently hurtling through space at an astounding 25,749 miles per hour.
It might seem weird that SpaceX used a car as its test payload, and it admittedly was outside of the norm. But there were a few simple explanations of why the SpaceX team chose such an unorthodox method of testing with an all-new rocket. Should the company have loaded up the Falcon Heavy with a satellite and the rocket experience one of the company’s famous rapid unscheduled disassemblies, they could be out much more than the cost of a Tesla Roadster.
But, perhaps more important to Musk was the fact that the stunt was attention-grabbing. This wasn’t just any old Tesla—it was the CEO’s personal car wrapped up with some space-themed Bowie nostalgia. Plus, it’s just entertaining to see a car be launched into the cosmos.
“It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly and fun things are important,” Musk said during an interview about the launch. “Normally, for a new rocket, it launches like a block of concrete, and that’s so boring. The imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world. And it’s still tripping me out.”
Experts believe that Starman’s expedition will bring him back around towards Earth sometime in November 2020, though his flyby won’t necessarily be close at just over 32 million miles away. It will, however, be quite some time before the electric car and its occupant pass by their home planet again; trajectory estimations anticipate that after its visit next year, the Roadster won’t be close to home again until 2047.
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