In February 2018, SpaceX launched its first Falcon Heavy rocket into space with Elon Musk’s personal 2008 Tesla Roadster and a dummy driver named “Starman” on board. To make Starman’s long space journey less lonely, Musk set him to listen to endless loops of David Bowie’s Space Oddity in one ear and Life On Mars? during the journey.
After 2.5 years of wondering in outer space, the Starman-Roadster duo flew by Mars this week for the first time at a close distance of just under 5 million miles.
“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,” SpaceX said in a tweet on Wednesday. (One astronomical unit is the average distance between Earth and the sun, or 93 million miles.)
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
According to WhereIsRoadster.com, an independent site tracking the Roadster’s real-time location, the vehicle goes around the sun once every 557 days. It has completed 1.75 orbits around the star since launch and is currently moving toward Earth at a speed of 17,276 miles per hour from a distance of 37,384,540 miles, or 3.34 light minutes.
As of Thursday, “the car has exceeded its 36,000 mile warranty 36,098.2 times while driving around the sun,” the tracking site says, and “has achieved a fuel economy of 10,313.8 miles per gallon, assuming 126,000 gallons of fuel.”
If the battery was still working, Starman would have listened to Space Oddity 264,916 times and Life On Mars? 356,963 times.
The Roadster was originally sent onto a path toward Mars’ orbit and was expected to crash into the Red Planet. But scientists late calculated that it would eventually crash into either Earth, Venus or the sun—in about 10 million years.