A shiny red Tesla Roadster isn’t something that will fit in with all the other objects floating through space, which is very apparent after a picture of the car and its lone dummy named Starman was sent back to Earth. Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster was blasted off into space with a mission of taking its place in heavens where it will journey in an elliptical orbit between Earth and Mars.
Once that bright red car got up into space it turns out that “the final engine blast propelled that Tesla farther than expected,” according to The Atlantic. This overshoot seemed to suggest the car’s final destination was not in the intended asteroid belt between the Earth and Mars but between Mars and Jupiter.
This confusion prompted a slew of experts to get busy with the data Musk had shared online along with the numbers coordinating the orbit of this car. Andy Rivkin, who is a planetary astronomer at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and who studies asteroids, said, “We collectively assumed that the numbers on Musk’s tweet were based on telemetry and that they’d know best.”
The Atlantic reports that the revised orbital data provided by SpaceX and shared with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s system for tracking solar-system bodies showed the original graphic was incorrect.” This confirmed the suspicions of Rivkin as well as a few other professionals around the globe.
Another astronomer, Jonathan McDowell, who hails from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been “live-tweeting his attempts to discern the correct orbit.” He sent out a tweet citing Elon still talking about his Starman headed for the asteroid belt, but McDowell writes, “But I’m not convinced yet…”
Because the numbers seemed off, Rivkin and others used the independent observations that were posted online by an Australian asteroid observer, Rob McNaught. It wasn’t until late Wednesday night when the revised data provided by SpaceX showed the original graphic as incorrect.
The corrected number provided new data that suggested the car wouldn’t make it to the asteroid belt as Elon Musk first predicted. The Tesla took its place among the small rocks and dust floating around in another neck of the woods, but its journey is nonetheless exciting.
The new data has the Tesla taking 18.8 months to complete one trip around the Sun, and it will cross the orbit of Mars twice per orbit, which coincides with Musk’s wish to get that car near Mars. Danger looms for this car around every space corner as it could get bombarded with something the size of fine particles of sand. Predictions have a fist-size rock hitting the Tesla every few million years and there’s always a possibility that it could collide with something.
The car’s orbit will change and eventually start crossing the orbit of Mars and Earth then onto Venus and Mercury, that is if it stays intact and doesn’t smash into anything or anything smashes into it. When all is said and done, if the car is still a car a few million years from now, its journey will end with it smashing into the Sun. Until then “If the Tesla avoids a collision with Mars—and anything else—it will remain in its loop around the sun for perhaps hundreds of millions of years.”
Can the Tesla be seen from Earth?
If the car avoids a collision with Mars or anything else, strong telescopes like the Pan-STARRS might be able to spot the Telsa when it crosses its view field. If they can’t see it, another attempt in 11 years is their best bet when the corrected data has the Tesla approaching the Earth.
One thing that is on the astronomers’ side when looking for the car — the shiny red car should reflect the light better than an asteroid’s dull rock-like material. Astronomers find asteroids and comets by looking for the reflection of the sunlight coming off their surfaces, so that shiny car should give off an extra bit of gleam.
One expert predicts the Tesla’s doom within a year or two.
According to The Drive, if little rocks and dust particles don’t tear the shiny red Tesla apart, radiation will. William Carroll, who is an Indiana University chemist and molecular expert, sees a different fate for Elon Musk’s Tesla. He said that the car may only be intact for as little as one to two years while in space. “Without the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, the Roadster will be bombarded by radiation that will eventually tear apart anything not made of metal on the car.”
It sounds as if the seats, steering wheel, tires, and even the Starman will fall victim to radiation, according to his theory. This also includes all plastic components as well as the car’s carbon fiber body.