Science 5 min read

What Could Possibly Happen to Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in Space?

SpaceX |

SpaceX |

SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy into space with a luxury car on board. People are now asking: what could happen to “Starman” and Elon Musk’s sleek Tesla Roadster?

It’s official! Elon Musk and SpaceX just made history with the success of Falcon Heavy‘s test launch yesterday. This not only made the Falcon Heavy rocket the biggest and most powerful spacecraft in the world. In fact, it is now also the most capable launch vehicle available today.

However, what about the future of “Starman” and Musk’s sleek and shiny Tesla Roadster?

Of course, aside from its mammoth size, one thing that made the Falcon Heavy test launch highly popular was its payload.

Musk, being the billionaire that he is, didn’t think twice about loading his 2008 midnight-cherry red Tesla Roadster as cargo. What’s more, the car carries a spacesuit-garbed mannequin on top of the launcher.

Falcon Heavy's payload, Elon Musk's 2008 midnigh-cherry-red Tesla Roadster
Falcon Heavy’s payload, Elon Musk’s 2008 midnight-cherry-red Tesla Roadster | SpaceX |

Read More: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launch: Updates and Live Stream

Musk said he’s bored of traditional payloads, so, why not send his personal luxury car into space? This shouldn’t really be a surprise coming from a man like Musk. As an example of his eccentricity, he once sent a wheel of Le Brouere cheese into space during the maiden flight of SpaceX’s first Dragon capsule.

The #TeslaRoadster owned by tech billionaire @elonmusk is currently headed to the Van Allen belt.Click To Tweet

Musk’s Tesla Roadster is on its way to Mars

Musk’s Tesla Roadster and its passenger, “Starman,” is now on its way out into the wider Solar System. According to SpaceX, the car is expected to reach as far as the orbit of Mars through a path called the Hohmann transfer orbit.

However, the rocket carrying the vehicle overshot its trajectory. This will most likely lead to the Tesla being sent into an orbit further into the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

Right now, it is not quite clear what will happen to the Tesla on its voyage across space. However, experts offered some possibilities and good explanations regarding its fate.

One thing that the Tesla Roadster could be facing now is the vacuum itself.

However, William Carroll, an expert in plastics and organic molecules from Indiana University, said that he’s not really worried about it. Apparently, since cars don’t have internal pressures that could be counteracted by an atmosphere, it won’t experience the whole terrible effects of the vacuum of space that other objects would.

“I might disable the airbag before I send it,” the scientist said instead. “I probably wouldn’t fill it with windshield washer fluid.”

Carroll further said that if Musk took care of that and deflating the tires, there’s nothing left in the convertible to pop in a vacuum. The real forces that he thinks might tear up the Tesla Roadster in its million-year journey in space are solid objects and radiation.

As we all know, the vastness of space is teeming with rocks and other solid materials. It is highly likely that the car could get into a major collision with one of these space rocks. But, even in the case that the Tesla Roadster and Starman are fortunate enough to avoid a potential crash, there’s no escaping radiation.

Unlike here on Earth where all things, both living and non-living, are protected from radiation by the planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field, Musk’s roadster has no protection in space.

“All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there,” Carroll said. “[Those materials] are made up largely of carbon-carbon bonds and carbon-hydrogen bonds.”

By organic, Carroll is not only referring to the leathers and fabrics, but also the plastics and the carbon-fiber frame of the luxury car. More or less, radiation would cause the molecular bonds in those materials to snap, shredding the midnight-cherry red Tesla Roadster into bits.

Furthermore, astrophysicist Summer Ash told Gizmodo in a direct twitter message that the high energy particles in space could fry the car’s circuity. The scientist said it might not be an immediate problem, but the longer the vehicle is exposed to radiation, the more likely its electrical components will degrade. Also, if you are not aware of it yet, Starman and his sleek Tesla Roadster are currently heading to the Van Allen belt, two regions of intense radiation surrounding our planet.

Read More: Mystery About Earth’s Van Allen Belts Solved by Researchers

Again, all of these are mere speculations. Regardless of how slim the chances are, there’s still a possibility that the Tesla might survive the harsh environment of space. However, if there’s one sure thing about the fate of Musk’s convertible, it is that we won’t be getting a hold of it again in the next million, or even billion years.

What can you say about the Tesla Roadster’s journey to Mars? Do you think this is a giant step for humanity? Or just a billionaire’s hobby that’s gotten out of hand?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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