Though it has been less than a month since SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy into space, astronomers have already been plotting the possible course for the rocket’s payload, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster. While there’s definitely no chance of Musk getting his car back, scientists say there’s a (slim) possibility of it one day crashing into Earth — eventually.
A paper published on ArXiv on February 13, superbly titled “The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets,” details “the fate” of the Roadster and its captain. According to the researchers’ calculations, over the course of the next million years, the Tesla has only a six percent chance of smashing into our planet. So even if Elon Musk develops a cryogenic chamber suit to selfishly keep himself alive for millions of years, he still won’t get to give his car another spin.
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The team made their calculations using information about the orbits of various solar system planets from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Horizons database. “By running a large ensemble of simulations with slightly perturbed initial conditions, we estimate the probability of a collision with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be 6 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively,” the researchers write. “We estimate the dynamical lifetime of the Tesla to be a few tens of millions of years.”
The Tesla’s trajectory has been notoriously unpredictable so far. The payload was supposed to reach a kind of heliocentric orbit known as a trans-Mars injection but was overshot. It was then supposed to reach the asteroid belt, but astronomers quickly pointed out that it would actually fall millions of miles short.
That said, at least you don’t have to wait millions of years to find out where Musk’s car is. A new site aptly called whereisroadster lets anyone keep tabs on the midnight cherry spacemobile.
While a space car crash landing would certainly make for one hell of a homecoming, the reality is, none of us will be around to see it. That’s because we’ll all be dead and long forgotten — our memories lost to the void.