Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster Is Still in Orbit—Space Travels, Explained

Where is Elon Musk’s car in space? Find out the whereabouts of the SpaceX founder’s Tesla Roadster and its mannequin passenger, Starman.

Dan Clarendon - Author

Jul. 20 2021, Published 3:55 p.m. ET

SpaceX founder Elon Musk didn’t make a personal visit to space before fellow billionaires Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos did, but Musk’s Starman and his Tesla Roadster have them all beat!

Starman and the Roadster have been orbiting the sun ever since the mannequin and the car hitched a ride aboard SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy rocket launch in February 2018. (A year and a half later, Musk teased about plans to launch a small spacecraft to catch up with the Roadster.)

So, where is Musk’s car in space now?

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Well, for starters, the Roadster crossed paths with Mars in October 2020. “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,” SpaceXtweeted at the time. (FYI, one astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun or about 93 million miles.)

A website is tracking the Roadster’s position in space.

The aptly titled website Where Is Roadster? logs the live position of Starman and the Tesla convertible. As of the time of this writing—nearly three and a half years post-launch—the car is more than 86 million miles from Earth, moving at a speed of more than 38,000 miles per hour and orbiting the Sun every 557 days or so. It has traveled about 1.75 billion miles, which is enough to traverse all of the world’s roads more than 77 times.

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The website reports other fun statistics. For example, the Roadster has exceeded its 36,000-mile warranty more than 48,000 times over. It has achieved a fuel economy of more than 13,800 miles per gallon, even with the Falcon Heavy’s fuel tanks carrying the equivalent of 126,000 gallons of gasoline. If the car battery was still working, Starman would have listened to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” more than 342,000 times and the singer’s “Life on Mars?” more than 461,000 times.

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The car represents an “infinitesimally small ‘littering’ of the cosmos.”

According to one expert, the Roadster isn’t contributing to the space junk that’s endangering both human spaceflights and robotic missions into outer space.

“[Musk] is shipping it out of Earth orbit, so I do not think that there is any risk here,” Darren McKnight, technical director for Integrity Applications and member of the International Academy of Astronautics’ Space Debris Committee, told Space.com in 2018. “The enthusiasm and interest that he generates more than offsets the infinitesimally small ‘littering’ of the cosmos.”

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But McKnight did think that the Roadster’s mission was “a huge waste of a beautiful car.” McKnight added that he would have been happy to take the convertible and let Musk send his “five-year-old silver Prius” into orbit.

However, McKnight might not want the Roadster now. William Carroll, a chemist at Indiana University, told Live Science in 2018 that radiation from the sun would soon break down the car’s leather seats and rubber tires. “Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn’t give them a year,” Carroll explained.


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