This is one time where expectations were matched with reality. When the SpaceX Falcon Heavy put a Tesla Roadster into orbit this week, the live feed from the car-in-space (powered by a 12-hour battery) was impressively close to an animated CGI film SpaceX released a day earlier.

We shouldn’t be surprised, though. The space around Earth is constant, black, and without an atmosphere to change how it looks. Still, that the live feed looked so much like animation certainly had to be as validating for SpaceX engineers and scientists as it was thrilling for everybody watching at home.

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“You can tell it’s real because it looks so fake,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Wednesday after the test mission. “We’d have way better CGI if it was fake.”

To test the Falcon Heavy rocket system, SpaceX needed a payload for the demonstration launch, and Musk opted to send his old car into a Mars orbit around the sun, complete with a mannequin wearing a SpaceX-designed spacesuit in the driver’s seat, and Musk took pains to mention a few times a Hot Wheels-sized Tesla Roadster with a little spaceman in the driver’s seat, on the dashboard.

“I mean it’s kind of silly and fun, but I think silly, fun things are important and normally for a new rocket, they’d launch like a block of concrete or something like that; that’s so boring,” Musk said. “And the imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world.”

SpaceX Starman: Where is it now?

The car overshot its Mars orbit by a great distance. However, a stargazer’s video of the car still has people talking. It doesn’t seem likely the car will be seen again beyond this final photo shared by Musk before the battery on the live feed died.

The car has moved so far into space that aliens may wonder if we worshipped it as a midnight-cherry colored god.

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While the narrative around this feat is generally positive, Musk has also been criticized for pulling a rich guy stunt, a billionaire’s prank, something that flaunts his wealth, including putting a luxury sports car into space. Critics on social media, in no small number, have wondered if he should have recognized the hard work of scientists and engineers more. Many people are just annoyed by Musk personally, which no doubt colors how they perceive the engineering achievements of SpaceX.

Earlier this summer, maybe Musk had the stunt in mind when he spoke of getting the public excited about space at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

“Most of the public, they’re not really into hard science. It’s not the thing they’re tuning in for most of the time,” Musk said before getting into how he thinks the agency can recapture the public’s imagination:

To get the public excited, you’ve really got to get people in the picture. It’s just a hundred times different if there are people in the picture. And if there’s some criticism of NASA, it’s important to remember, people in the picture if you want to get the public’s support. But if you talk to scientists about that, [they’ll say] “where is the science in that?” It’s like, “you’re not getting it.” That’s not why people are giving you money. I mean it’s a little bit of the reason, the serious scientists are like, “people just make things more expensive; why do we have people.” OK, why do we have people at all, anywhere? Sometimes the scientists are the ones who just don’t understand. Smart people, but you know. You got to have something that’s going to fire people up and get them really excited and I think if we had a serious goal of having a base on the moon and sending people to Mars, and said, “OK, we’re going to be outcome-oriented, how are we going to this?”

While starman is likely gone forever, we’ll always have the memes and the inspiration it provided. For one day, anyway, space was the top story on all three major news networks’ nightly broadcasts.

Photos via SpaceX

SpaceX has put its latest Falcon 9 through its paces. On Thursday, the space-faring firm shared two images of its first “Block 5” rocket, having successfully completed two missions in the space of three months. The scorched booster is integral to the company’s future plans to launch the same Falcon 9 rocket twice in just 24 hours.

Sorry, Elon Musk, but Beaker is now the first scientist to colonize Mars. NASA published a high-resolution photo of a dust storm on Mars’ south pole, revealing a case of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of seeing faces or shapes in unrelated objects. The appearance of Beaker was so well-defined in the Martian landscape that even the agency couldn’t deny his appearance. Meep.

Google celebrated the life of Mary G. Ross on Thursday, with a commemorative doodle on what would have been the pioneer aerospace scientist’s 110th birthday. Ross, a Native American female engineer, helped develop some of the first concepts for flyby missions past Venus and Mars, paving the way for humans to explore the stars and visit other planets. Ross proudly described some of her most important moments this way: “I was the pencil pusher, doing a lot of research. My state of the art tools were a slide rule and a Frieden computer.”

Mars is kind of a bummer: That place is a hotbed of dynamic dust storms that got so big in recent months that they encircled the entire planet. Those conditions, sure to be a challenge for future Mars colonies, are a buzzkill for NASA’s Opportunity Rover right now: A dust storm forced the droid, which has been roaming Mars for 14 years, to shut down in June, and it’s still turned off today.

SpaceX’s manned launches are taking one step closer to reality. New images published this week shows how Elon Musk’s space-faring firm is preparing to send its first humans into space on the new Crew Dragon capsule. The flights, alongside missions planned with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, will be the first to send American astronauts into space on board a commercial spacecraft.