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Video Shows SpaceX Starman Mission Expectations vs. Reality

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.”

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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.

Media via SpaceX

Why Experts Say "Zombie Deer" Disease Can Spread Chronic Wasting to Humans

 "It's possible the number of human cases will be substantial." 

A few months ago, the “zombie deer disease” was largely the concern of deer hunters, deer activists, and anyone generally attuned to weird zombie-like diseases that abound in nature. But now, the disease is present in deer in 24 states and two Canadian provinces, and experts are warning it may be transmissible to humans — a potential risk that is too pressing to ignore.

The Incredible Science Behind This Self-Warming, Self-Cooling Bed

Eight Sleep’s new bed will make tossing and turning a thing of the past.

Filed Under Data

Sleep tracking can unquestionably help you establish better habits which allow for a more restful night’s sleep. By keeping track of the nights that you toss and turn, you can identify potential explanations for your sub-optimal slumber. Maybe it’s the time of week that’s got you anxious. Maybe it was the cheeseburger you had for lunch. Paying attention is just the start, though.

Brain Scans Reveal Why "Night Owls" Have It Rough in a 9-to-5 Society: Study

The results explain why we need to "create more flexibility in our society."

The 9-to-5 workday originated with American labor unions in the 1800s, and today, the eight-hour workday is the norm. But however normalized the schedule, it is directly opposed to something more powerful: biology.

In a new study, scientists report that people whose internal body clocks tell them to go to bed late, but are then forced to wake up early, have a lower resting brain connectivity in the regions of the brain linked to consciousness.

Did Inbreeding Kill the Neanderthals? Experts Say Skeletons Hold Clues

Things got a little "Game of Thrones."

Today, Homo sapiens are the only humans left on Earth. But thousands of years ago there were more of us — other species that belonged to the same genus, and in turn, our family tree. They are now extinct and scientists endeavor to figure out why.

In a new study published this month in Scientific Reports, a team took on the case of Homo neanderthalensis, and argue that the reason they died out was because things turned a little Game of Thrones.

The 'Stoned Ape' Theory Might Explain Our Extraordinary Evolution

A scientist resurfaces a psychedelic retelling of human evolution.

Imagine Homo erectus, a now-extinct species of hominids that stood upright and became the first of our ancestors to move beyond a single continent. Around two million years ago, these hominids, some of whom eventually evolved into Homo sapiens, began to expand their range beyond Africa, moving into Asia and Europe. Along the way, they tracked animals, encountered dung, and discovered new plants.