Elon Musk launched his personal Tesla Roadster into space four years ago this week. The car is still cruising around our solar system.
Complete with a dummy astronaut dubbed “Starman,” the Tesla Roadster has traveled almost two billion miles since it was first launched. That’s a little over 2 and a half trips around the Sun. For the most part, the luxury car’s space trip has been uneventful. It doesn’t come in contact with much of anything out there. It’s only come close to a planet a handful of times.
Even then, the car doesn’t really get that close. For example, the car had its first close encounter with Mars in 2020. By close encounter, we mean that it came within five million miles of the Red Planet. That’s about 20 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
That being said, we can assume that the Roadster is still in pretty good condition. “The Roadster is more than likely still in one piece,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. However, it’s most likely been dinged a few times by meteoroids.
Elon’s Tesla Roadster is Hundreds of Millions of Miles Away, And Won’t Be Coming Closer Anytime Soon
As of Monday, the Roadster was 234 million miles from Earth and about 200 million miles from Mars. The car won’t be coming close to any other planets for at least another 10 years. It’s expected to get close to Mars again in 2035. After that, it’ll brush close to Earth in 2047 and then again in 2050. In terms of collision, there isn’t much out there that the car could hit. Studies have estimated that there’s about a 22% chance that the car could collide with Earth in the next 15 million years. There’s about a 12% chance that the Tesla could crash into the Sun or Venus instead.
However, these numbers or expected close encounters aren’t guaranteed. It’s hard to predict which route the car will take through space. After all, space itself is unpredictable. And for right now, scientists aren’t particularly interested in keeping an eye on the car. The Roadster hasn’t actually been observed since around the time it launched. CNN reports that the car was last observed by scientists a month after its launch, in March 2018. We only know where the car is located now because a website uses NASA data to track it.
The car may be in one piece now, but if Elon Musk‘s Roadster ever does hit Earth it most likely will break apart. Earth is hit by space objects often, but they all meet the same fiery fate once they hit the atmosphere. Scientists assume that the Tesla Roadster will meet the same fate should it ever travel in our direction.