It’s been just two days since Elon Musk blasted his Tesla Roadster into space aboard the world’s most powerful operational rocket.
But, it appears the cherry red sports car and its ‘driver,’ Starman have already settled into their new home.
Now that the unconventional payload has reached orbit, NASA has officially designated it a celestial object.
This means the Roadster and the ‘spacesuit-wearing mannequin’ have joined the ranks of all other objects being monitored in the solar system, from satellites to planets and asteroids.
It’s been just two days since Elon Musk blasted his Tesla Roadster into space aboard the world’s most powerful operational rocket. But, it appears the cherry red sports car and its ‘driver,’ Starman (shown) have already settled into their new home. Now that the unconventional payload has reached orbit, NASA has officially designated it a celestial object
WHAT’S INSIDE ELON MUSK’S SPACE ROADSTER?
At a press conference following the launch of the Falcon Heavy, Elon Musk revealed SpaceX placed a Hot Wheels model of the red Roadster on the dashboard of real car.
And inside, it contains a mini-Starman.
A description of the payload penned by NASA elaborates on the contents of the vehicle, revealing Musk also included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels.
There’s also a plaque containing the names of 6,000 SpaceX employees.
The latest addition to NASA’s record was spotted by meteorologist and writer for Grist, Eric Holthaus.
Musk’s Roadster can now be found through the online Horizons tool from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
In a description of the new celestial object, NASA wrote: ‘Dummy payload from first launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle consisting of a standard Tesla Roadster automobile and a space-suit wearing mannequin nicknamed Starman.’
The description confirms the sports car orbited Earth for six hours, then completed its third-stage burn to reach heliocentric orbit.
And, it reveals some new details on what else is inside the vehicle.
‘Also includes a Hot Wheels toy model Roadster on the car’s dash with a mini-Starman inside,’ the description continues.
‘A data storage device placed inside the car contains a copy of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” novels.
‘A plaque on the attachment fitting between the Falcon Heavy upper stage and the Tesla is etched with the names of more than 6,000 SpaceX employees.’
While NASA says its trajectory has been determined based on GPS data, the space agency also indicates that things could change at any time.
‘Prediction errors could increase significantly over time due to unmodeled solar pressure, thermal radiation, or outgassing accelerations that are not characterized.’
The Roadster and the ‘spacesuit-wearing mannequin’ have joined the ranks of all other objects being monitored in the solar system, from satellites to planets and asteroids. NASA’s description of the ‘dummy payload’ is shown
Starman’s 250-million-mile journey through space is set to be an unpredictable one, after already straying off the planned course to voyage past Mars.
Musk shared a final photo on Wednesday of the Roadster that he launched into space, saying ‘last pic of Starman in Roadster enroute [sic] to Mars orbit and then the Asteroid Belt.’
And, many have begun to question what will happen to the Roadster and Starman as they drift further along.
Experts say the outlook could be pretty grim; the Roadster will have to face tough conditions in outer space, namely thousands of micometeorites and dangerous cosmic radiation.
Soon after Tuesday’s launch, Elon Musk tweeted a live feed of the car, and its ‘Starman’ dummy driver with Australia in the background. The Roadster was still attached to the rocket module in this image as it floated above the planet
Repeated collisions with micrometeorites and other space junk are likely to leave tons of dents and pockmarks on the car’s surface.
But the real threat will come from the extreme radiation, which has serious potential to tear the Roadster into pieces and, obviously, destroy Starman right along with it.
On earth, humans and objects are protected from the sun’s radiation thanks to the atmosphere and magnetic fields — shields that don’t exist in space.
As a result, any plastic materials in the car, as well as its carbon-fire frame, will eventually deteriorate.
‘All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there,’ William Carroll, a chemist at Indiana University, told LiveScience.
‘[Those materials] are made up largely of carbon-carbon bonds and carbon-hydrogen bonds’
‘When you cut something with a knife, in the end, you’re cutting some chemical bonds,’ Carroll added.
When ultraviolet radiation is powerful, it carries enough energy to break molecular bonds.
It’s liable to gradually wear down the Roadster’s seat leather and plastics until the car is merely a pile of scrap metal and burnt rubber.
The Roadster’s inorganic components, such as the aluminum chassis, the lithium-ion battery pack and any glass that remains intact after hurtling past meteors will likely survive the longest, according to Autoblog.
‘Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn’t give them a year,’ Carroll told LiveScience.
Even Musk acknowledged that his Roadster probably won’t be able to live through the elements of deep space.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Musk was asked just exactly how long the car will last.
‘We didn’t really test any of [the Roadster’s] materials for space hardened, or whatever,’ Musk explained.
‘It just has the same seats like a normal car has,’ he added.
SpaceX’s Starman dummy launched into space on the maiden voyage of Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. This still image taken from a real-time SpaceX video shows Starman sitting in CEO Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla roadster after the rocket delivered it into orbit around the Earth. It is currently travelling through space at 24,500mph (39,400km/h)
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ELON MUSK’S STARMAN AND HIS TESLA ROADSTER NOW THEY ARE IN SPACE?
Where is the roadster going?
Starman was meant to be on a 250-million-mile (400m km) journey to Mars’ orbit, propelled by the main module, which separated from Falcon Heavy shortly after launch.
But in a slight hiccup, Elon Musk admitted SpaceX overshot Falcon Heavy’s third booster burn, sending Starman further into the solar system than was originally planned.
The new orbit will sent the Roadster on a journey into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
What will happen to it?
The main force that will tear the car apart over hundreds of millions of years in space is radiation.
This will particularly affect the plastics and carbon-fibre frame.
‘[Those materials] are made up largely of carbon-carbon bonds and carbon-hydrogen bonds,’ Dr William Carroll, a chemist at Indiana University told Live Science.
On Earth we are protected by a powerful magnetic field and atmosphere that shields us from the worst of radiation from the sun and cosmic rays.
Radiation in space causes those bonds to break which will eventually cause the car to fall to pieces.
‘When you cut something with a knife, in the end, you’re cutting some chemical bonds,’ Dr Carroll said.
‘All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there,’ he said.
How long will it last?
‘Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn’t give them a year,’ Dr Carroll said.
The well-secured inorganic materials, such as the aluminium frame and internal metals, would last longer, meaning it could still be recognisable in at least a million years.
However, it is unlikely it will avoid all collisions with micrometeorites and other space junk in the meantime.
Before the launch Musk said there was a chance the car might hit Mars. Now on its new path it’s not clear whether the car might run into some other space object.
Starman was meant to be on a 250-million-mile (400 million km) journey to orbit the red planet, but the dummy is heading further out into the solar system towards the asteroid belt as one of Falcon Heavy’s boosters burned for too long.
Musk said the ‘silly and fun’ mission was a success because it will ‘get people excited around the world’, although the rocket’s central booster failed to return to Earth as planned.
Falcon Heavy’s flight could open up the prospect of far cheaper space launches, making travel to Mars more achievable.
Elon Musk admitted SpaceX overshot Falcon Heavy’s third booster burn, sending Starman (green line) beyond the orbit of Mars and further into the solar system than was originally planned. He tweeted this graphic with the caption: ‘Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt’
Viewers of yesterday’s launch livestream were left with video images beamed from space of Musk’s red Roadster circling the blue planet after its protective covering had dropped away and exposed the car.
In the middle of the vehicle, on the centre screen, the words ‘Don’t Panic’ were printed – a reference to the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about an accidental space traveller, Arthur Dent.
‘It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly and fun things are important,’ said Musk, who is CEO of both SpaceX and electric car firm Tesla.
‘The imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world.’
Despite the rocket’s success, it ultimately missed the target set by Musk before the big day to perform a close flyby of Mars as it reached the red planet’s orbital path around the sun.
The billionaire tweeted about the error during the flight, writing: ‘Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt.’
In the middle of this live stream image of the car, on the center screen, are the words ‘Don’t Panic’. This a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the 1979 book that was first in a series by Douglas Adams about an accidental space traveler, Arthur Dent. In the story, the Guide has the words ‘Don’t Panic’ on its cover
Two of the Falcon Heavy’s reusable boosters – both recycled from previous launches – returned minutes after lift-off for on-the-mark touchdowns at Cape Canaveral.
Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the synchronised vertical landings.
However, the craft’s third and final booster missed its target – a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean – by about 328 feet (100 metres).
In a press conference after the historic launch, Musk said early reports show the rocket’s central core ‘hit the water at 300 miles per hour (480kph) and sprayed the drone ship with shrapnel’.
The Tesla containing Starman was used as a ‘mass simulator’ to test how the rocket’s flight fared while carrying a payload. When Musk first posed the idea, most people assumed he was joking. The car was then released from the rocket module it was attached to as it passed through the Van Allen radiation belt at around 3.46am GMT today (10pm ET Tuesday)
WHY DID SPACEX LAUNCH A CAR INTO SPACE AND WAS ITS FALCON HEAVY FLIGHT SUCCESSFUL?
What was the launch trying to achieve?
The Falcon Heavy test flight was mostly a proof-of-concept, showing the world it is possible to successfully fly a rocket with thee re-usable boosters beyond orbit.
SpaceX has previously only launched what it calls ‘Falcon 9’ rockets, which each have a single re-usable booster.
Rockets are normally loaded with concrete or steel blocks during test flights to see how spacecraft perform with a payload, but in December SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the firm would load their rocket with his Tesla Roadster instead.
Musk said that the company planned to aim the rocket so the electric car reached Mars’ orbital path around the sun about six months after launch.
The billionaire added that the car could pass close to the red planet as it crossed its orbit, though he admitted this was ‘extremely unlikely’.
What does SpaceX gain from the flight?
SpaceX was built around the idea that reusable rockets could drastically reduce the cost of carrying cargo into space for paying customers, such as satellites or space station resupplies.
Showing that the huge Falcon Heavy rocket actually works is important if SpaceX plans to sell cargo space on the craft in future, with the company planning to charge customers $90 million (£65 million) per flight.
Now Falcon Heavy has launched, it could soon begin missions for SpaceX’s clients, which include Nasa, Nato and the US National Reconnaissance Office.
As with previous SpaceX rocket launches, the test also generated a flurry of media attention for the company, helped along by Musk’s quirky social media posts.
Has SpaceX achieved its goals?
Elon Musk repeatedly warned that Falcon Heavy would likely explode on the launchpad as a result of its sheer power, so by getting it beyond Earth’s orbit SpaceX has already surpassed the billionaire’s expectations.
The rocket took its unusual cargo into space before its three cores separated from the main module, leaving Musk’s Tesla on a mission into deep space.
Two of the craft’s three re-usable cores landed successfully back at Cape Canaveral, Florida, while the third crashed into the ocean and exploded when two of its re-entry boosters failed during its return to Earth.
Musk later said that SpaceX had slightly overcooked one of the rocket’s booster burns, sending the main module out of its planned trajectory. He said the car will likely end up further into the solar system than intended, missing Mars.
In short, the rocket made it beyond Earth’s orbit – SpaceX’s primary goal – but missed its targets to re-land all three cores and send Musk’s Tesla to Mars.
Does that matter?
SpaceX’s failure to re-land all three of its boosters will be a concern for potential customers, man of whom may want to see a fully successful test flight before buying a slot on a Falcon Heavy mission.
Ultimately, the hiccup is unlikely to cut demand for commercial Falcon Heavy flights when they begin in the near future.
In 2016, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its launchpad, destroying a $200 million (£145 million) Israeli satellite, but the firm has since launched more than 20 Falcon 9 craft carrying cargo for paying customers.
Despite the faults, the launch has still been hailed by industry experts as a game-changer because of its potential to propel the California-based company to the very forefront of the modern day space race.
Once it irons out the errors, SpaceX will offer cargo rides aboard the most powerful operational rocket in the world, capable of carrying twice the capacity of any other spacecraft.
Where is Musk’s Tesla now?
The Falcon Heavy’s unusual cargo was sent into an unplanned trajectory when SpaceX accidentally over-fired the rocket’s third booster stage.
The booster stages were supposed to make small adjustments to the vehicle’s path before it disconnected from the final rocket component and began to coast unaided through space at around 7 miles per second (11 km/s).
Instead of intersecting with Mars’ orbit around the sun, the Tesla missed by some distance, flying past the planet at an unknown distance and continuing deep into the solar system.
On Twitter, Musk said the car ‘exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt’, referring to the disk of asteroids in the solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
SpaceX had said before launch that they had no plans to track the Tesla, and with the firm’s cameras running out of battery 12 hours into the vehicle’s journey, it’s almost impossible to tell where Starman is now.
Rumours had already surfaced that the central core had missed its target after SpaceX cut its live video feed of the autonomous drone ship, named Of Course I Still Love You, minutes before the booster was due to land.
Musk said the landing failed after just one of core’s three engines re-lit for the landing burn, causing it to crash into the surface of the ocean.
Musk told reporters there were no plans to re-use the booster, even if it had been recovered.
Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. Elon Musk said in December that these simulators are ‘extremely boring’, adding that SpaceX had decided to send his Tesla up instead. A series of live camera feeds gave viewers stunning views of Earth as seen from the payload
Starman was meant to be on a 250-million-mile (400 million km) journey to Mars’ orbit, propelled by the main module, which separated from Falcon Heavy shortly after launch. This image shows Starman behind the wheel of the Tesla as it spins through space above the Earth after escaping the planet’s atmosphere
SpaceX failed to align the Tesla with Mars’ orbit after one of its boosters burned for too long, instead sending the Roadster on a journey into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This image shows the view back toward Earth from the live feed
With the car’s trajectory now ‘off-script’, it’s unclear what will happen to the vehicle. Before Falcon Heavy launched, Musk said there was only a small chance that his Tesla would ever reach Mars. The firm has now stopped tracking the vehicle, pictured here in the live stream
SpaceX has not confirmed whether the car’s new trajectory means it is likely to hit a different planet. Planetary scientists on Twitter have asked the firm for its cargo’s exact orbit to calculate the Tesla’s odds of collision. Here, Starman can be seen behind the wheel of the Tesla in an image from the live video
SpaceX technicians were overheard saying ‘we lost the centre core’ in a clip of live video taken during launch at the firm’s Mission Control centre near Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Despite the central booster malfunction, the firm did manage to complete the remarkable feat of landing Falcon Heavy’s other two reusable boosters simultaneously.
Stunning video from yesterday’s launch shows the twin boosters returning to Cape Canaveral in a synchronised landing.
The massive rocket launched at 3:45 p.m. ET, carrying Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla roadster on board.
SpaceX’s successful Falcon Heavy launch might have been impressive, but the firm lost one of the enormous rocket’s reusable boosters, CEO Elon Musk has confirmed. Pictured is the rocket as it launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, yesterday
Falcon Heavy launched with three reusable rocket cores that were supposed to return to Earth, but the craft’s central booster missed its target – a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean – by about 328 feet (100 metres). The drone ship, dubbed Of Course I Still Love You (pictured in 2015), has previously been used by SpaceX to successfully land Falcon 9 rockets
Just over three minutes into the launch, the side boosters detached from the rocket and launch operators confirmed the rocket was on the right trajectory.
After shedding from the core section of the rocket, the two reusable side boosters landed seamlessly back on Earth about eight minutes into the launch.
The rocket appeared to have successfully jettisoned its third and final core, but SpaceX’s live stream cut out before it landed, with the firm later confirming it had lost the booster.
In an incredible accomplishment, Falcon Heavy’s side boosters landed smoothly back down to Earth on two separate launchpads about eight minutes in. ‘The Falcons have landed’ the announcers said, as people cheered and whooped wildly in the background
Yesterday’s successful launch marked the maiden flight of what’s now the most powerful operational rocket in the world.
‘You’ve heard the call out – vehicle is supersonic’ the announcer said, as the rocket soared through the sky to massive cheers from the crowd below.
‘The Falcons have landed’ the announcers said, as onlookers cheered and whooped wildly in the background.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy megarocket finally blasted off from the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, carrying Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster yesterday
In a statement, SpaceX said: ‘It was an outstanding test flight of the Falcon Heavy.
‘Everything that you could want in a test flight – we got here,’ the team said.
A view inside the Roadster showed one last look at the dummy, dubbed Starman, behind the wheel on its journey to Mars.
‘Upper stage restart nominal, apogee raised to 7000km,’ Musk tweeted shortly after the launch.
‘Will spend 5 hours getting zapped in Van Allen belts & then attempt final burn for Mars.’
Falcon Heavy successfully lifted off on Tuesday afternoon. It can be seen above soaring high over the Cape Canaveral site. ‘You’ve heard the call out – vehicle is supersonic’ the announcer said, as the rocket soared through the sky to massive cheers from the crowd below
After leaving Earth, the Roadster and its passenger ‘Star Man’ are now off to travel alone on a 250 million mile (400m km) journey into deep space. It was propelled by the main module, which separated from Falcon Heavy shortly after launch. The dummy and the car can be seen above far above Earth in this live stream image taken following yesterday’s successful launch
After pushing back the launch time twice yesterday due to wind speeds, the massive rocket launched at 3:45 pm ET (8:45pm GMT), just before the launch window was set to close. Above, a view of the main module can be seen just after the side boosters split off
The SpaceX team confirmed immediately after launch that the massive rocket was operating according to plan. Just minutes later, it prepared for its side boosters to split off from the central core, as seen above
The SpaceX CEO also shared an update on Starman’s journey beyond Earth.
‘View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth,’ Musk quipped yesterday.
After five years of setbacks, the massive rocket capable of achieving a thrust equivalent to more than 18 Boeing 747 jetliners finally took its maiden flight.
According to Musk, it will take roughly six months for the car to complete the more than 200 million mile journey to reach the red planet.
And, it’s expected to remain in orbit for about a billion years.
This view inside the Roadster show the dummy behind the wheel on its journey to Mars, around four minutes after launch. The progress of the journey can be seen at the bottom of the image readouts from various monitoring instruments can be seen top right
Ahead of yesteerday’s launch, Musk released a stunning animation revealing how the plan would work.
The billionaire SpaceX CEO said the firm’s Falcon Heavy spacecraft would carry his Roadster on a billion-year journey through space ‘if it doesn’t explode into tiny pieces’.
A video posted to Musk’s Instagram account showed how the huge rocket would lift off from Florida in its first ever test flight.
Elon Musk’s Roadster and its solitary passenger, the mannequin ‘Starman,’ can be seen soaring through the sky after Falcon Heavy launched yesterday in this live captured image. The beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean can be seen in the background
The Tesla Roadster was due to carry out a 200 million mile journey to Earth-Mars orbit. Its planned path is illustrated in the graphic above. Had it been successful, it would have continued to circle this path, in theory, for billions of years, according to Musk. Plans went awry when the rockets boosters burned for too long and the vehicle will no longer reach the red planet
Yesterday Musk assured spectators cameras on the vehicle would provide ‘epic views’ as it travels to Mars.
Most new rockets carry concrete or steel blocks on test flights to simulate the weight of a real payload, but Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla, has previously said that this method is ‘extremely boring’.
He said SpaceX decided to send Musk’s car as it was ‘something unusual, something that made us feel.’
In yesterday’s Instagram post, Musk wrote: ‘Falcon Heavy launches to Mars orbit tomorrow.
‘If it doesn’t explode into tiny pieces, it will carry Starman in Roadster over 400 million km from Earth at 11 km/sec on a billion year journey through deep space’, he wrote yesterday.
SpaceX spent weeks preparing for the first test launch of its Falcon Heavy, which aims to one day take payloads to the moon or Mars.
It has been hailed by industry experts as a game-changer because of its potential to propel the California-based company to the very forefront of the modern day space race.
SpaceX spent weeks preparing for the first test launch of its Falcon Heavy, which aims to become the world’s most powerful rocket in operation, with the capacity to one day take payloads to the moon or Mars