SpaceX’s spacesuit wearing mannequin, given the name Starman has been “driving” through space in a red Tesla Roadster since the vehicle launched into orbit back in February 2018 on the debut flight of the company’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. It is with this said that Starman just hit a groundbreaking milestone on this journey the cosmos as of October 7th, 2020 Starman has officially just flown by Mars for the first time.
As announced on twitter by SpaceX “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,” (One astronomical unit is the average Earth-sun distance or approximately 93 million miles/150 million kilometers.) According to the tracking site whereisroadster.com, Starman circles the sun once every 557 Earth days in the Roadster. In fact, as of today Starman has been able to cover roughly 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion km) in space which, per calculations via whereisroadster.com would be enough distance to drive through every road on Earth 57 times over again.
Noteworthy considering all the news coming from space is that the pairing will most likely be accumulating more space miles on the odometer before making its way back home. Eventually, as stated by a 2018 orbit-modeling study, the roadster will eventually come crashing into Earth or Venus most likely in the next tens of millions of years. The good news is that the study lists the odds of impact into Earth at 6% and 2.5% into Venus conversely.
The pairing of Elon Musk’s decision to launch a Tesla vehicle via SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has seemed to pay off in multiple respects so far, eliminating as much liability as possible as well as the brand associated with the Tesla vehicle. Since the launch back in 2018, the Falcon Heavy has launched two more missions, both of which were operational flights.
The journey of Starman in the Tesla Roadster is definitely a development worth staying tuned to, as they duo have yet to even scratch the surface of what their mission can truly uncover.