Starman, the mannequin onboard SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, flew past the orbit on Mars.
Starman's Journey Into Space
The new milestone was announced via a tweet on Saturday, Nov. 3, nine months after it had been launched at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The red electric car was the test payload for the maiden voyage of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket.
The tweet included Starman's orbit diagram.
Starman's current location. Next stop, the restaurant at the end of the universe. pic.twitter.com/Ty5m8IjJpE — SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 3, 2018
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is, of course, a reference to the second book of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of Musk's favorites growing up. Onboard the Roadster is also a display that reads "Don't Panic!" — a phrase found on the cover of the electronic guidebook in Adams's series.
Interestingly, even Starman is a pop culture reference. Its name came from the 1972 song by David Bowie.
Back in February, Musk said that the mannequin astronaut and his own car were launched onboard the Falcon Heavy instead of any other dummy payload simply because it was a lot more fun. Also, the private spaceflight company could not use a valuable payload such as a satellite because maiden voyages are too risky. The Falcon Heavy is scheduled to fly for the second time in January.
Where Starman Is Headed
While Starman has seriously put a lot of miles on his Tesla Roadster for the past nine months, it would not be zipping toward the edge of the solar system. Instead, the mannequin astronaut, with its Tesla Roadster, would be circling back on its own heliocentric orbit.
Starman is expected to continue cruising in space for years to come. By 2091, it is expected to zip through within a few hundred thousand kilometers of Earth, according to a recent orbit-modeling study.
There is also a 6 percent chance that it will crash into Earth and a 2.5 percent chance that it will hit Venus in the next million years. That is if the car is still around by that time.
When it does crash into a planet, Starman and its Tesla Roadster will blaze in the atmosphere. Hanno Rein of the University of Toronto Scarborough and the lead author of the study added that the car will not likely survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years.
Fans can continue tracking Starman and the Tesla Roadster on the website whereisroadster.com.