Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, which was launched a year ago, is on a collision course to Earth, but researchers believe it will not happen for the next 1 million years.
Spaceman's Tragic End
The vehicle and its driver, a mannequin named Starman, was launched as the test payload for the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy. It is currently cruising on an elliptical orbit around the Sun.
However, its journey will someday end in a blaze as it reenters Earth's atmosphere. According to a study that appears in the pre-publication site arXiv.org, the Tesla Roadster has a 6 percent chance of colliding with Earth in the next 1 million years.
A team of researchers ran a series of computer simulations to track the orbit of Starman and its Tesla Roadster around the Sun over the next 3 million years. They found that it might also crash into Venus, Mars, and the Sun. Although still possible, the least likely scenario is the Roadster perishes during a collision with Mercury or Jupiter.
Being catapulted out of the Solar System is also a possibility.
The researchers assured that if the vehicle crashes into Earth, it will not be a threat to the human race. Starman and its Tesla will burn up in the atmosphere before it reaches the ground.
The team also said that the vehicle will unlikely continue cruising across the Solar System for more than a "few tens of millions of years." It will collide with a planet someday, although they cannot say for now which one the vehicle will eventually crash into.
SpaceX initially thought that Starman and the Tesla Roadster will be floating across the Solar System for a billion years. The vehicle might also make a close encounter with Earth within the next 100 years.
Battered And Beaten Up By Outer Space
However, before it achieves a fiery death, the Tesla Roadster has to survive the harsh conditions of outer space. A year after launch, it probably has endured a barrage of micrometeorites, solar radiations, and cosmic rays.
William Carroll, a chemist, told Live Science that the organic materials making up the car's leather seats, rubber tires, and shiny paint will be the first to go.
"Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn't give them a year," he stated.
When it reaches a million years in space, only the aluminum frame of the vehicle would probably all that survives.