A year ago, the Starman dummy was sent into orbit on board one of Elon Musk’s red Tesla roadsters. Where is the car now after drifting for several months? Where is the car’s driver?
A year ago, Tesla’s roadster which is in fact Elon Musk’s personal car, was sent into orbit with a dummy at the wheel. This first useful albeit unusual load will help with the inaugural voyage of SpaceX’s gigantic rocket, Falcon Heavy. Since the car was launched into space it has done a fair bit of travelling. It might not be hitting the road but it has all the same traveled more than 460 million miles around the sun over the course of the year. A few weeks ago the car passed the martian orbit. The car is currently on an elliptical orbit and will travel around the sun in the equivalent of 557 days on earth.
Is everything going well up there?
This is at least what the site wherisroadster.com suggests. On this website you can follow the adventures of Starman in real time. The images however are not of the best quality. In these conditions it is difficult to deceiver the current situation. Nevertheless we can imagine that the car and driver collide with millions of micrometeorites every day. Solar radiations and cosmic rays are also a threat, perhaps even a greater one. At least this is the opinion of William Carroll, a chemist from the University of Indianan in the United States and expert in plastic and organic molecules.
“ All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there,” Carroll explained last year a few days after the launch. The organic materials mentioned are all the car’s plastic materials as well as the car’s carbon fibre frame. The chemist explains that these material “are made up largely of carbon-carbon bonds and carbon-hydrogen bonds“. However these bonds can the break up under the energy of stellar radiation. As a result this will cause the car to break up as it has been punctured with a sharp object. As a result Carroll predicted that “those organics, in that environment, I wouldn’t give them a year,”
Still many millions of years on the road
You probably have understood that there probably isn’t much left of the Roadster. However perhaps it’s aluminium frame will be destined to drift around the sun for the next million years. SpaceX counted on the Starman dummy travelling through the solar system for about a billion years. According to a study published a few months ago, it is also possible that the car will crash down on Earth or Venus in a few dozen million years. However the chances that this will happen are relatively thin between 2% to 6%.
Supposing the battery still works, Starman has listened to Space Oddity by David Bowie more than 100, 000 times in one of his ears and Life on Mars, also by Bowie, about 135, 000 times in the other.