In 2018 Elon Musk’s SpaceX demonstrated the Falcon Heavy launch system with a successful test flight that also sent Musk’s personal 2008 Tesla Roadster into space complete with a spacesuit-clad mannequin called Starman in the driver’s seat. Now, more than two years later, Starman and his cherry red car have made it to Mars. Back in October, SpaceX shared on social media that Starman had made its first close approach with the Red Planet.
“Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made its first close approach with Mars today—within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the Red Planet,” the SpaceX post read.
Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made its first close approach with Mars today—within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the Red Planet pic.twitter.com/gV8barFTm7
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 7, 2020
What’s interesting here is that SpaceX notes that it is the “first close approach” with Mars and, indeed, Spaceman is expected to get even closer in the future. According to Ben Pearson, who developed an unofficial online tracker for Starman and the Roadster (via CNET), the Tesla will pass by at a much, much closer 1.4 million mile distance on April 22, 2035. It’ll make its way past Earth in 2047.
While it’s fascinating that the Roadster will get so close to Mars, don’t expect any photos to ever come from those close encounters. While there are cameras on both the inside and outside of the vehicle, the vehicle’s battery has long since died. Musk had initially estimated that the Roadster’s battery would last for more than 12 hours, but it actually only appeared to work for 4, meaning that Starman has just been out in space in silence ever since.
And both Starman and the Roadster probably look pretty different than they did in the last images sent back to Earth. Live Science noted previously that the harsh solar radiation in space had probably already disintegrated most of the exposed organic materials — think things like the red paint, the tires, the leather seats, etc. Eventually, it’s believed that the Roadster will be reduced to simply it’s aluminum frame and perhaps some of the glass, provided they survive impact with passing rocks and debris.
What do you think about Starman’s continued journey in space? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.