We've sent a lot of unusual things to space, guitars, AI robots, even a golden record, but none of that compares to what Elon Musk sent up at the start of 2018. His very own $100,000 cherry red, convertible Tesla Roadster. With the top down and a dummy at the wheel listening to David Bowie, strapped to the most powerful, operational rocket in the world, no less, The Falcon Heavy.
Since its launch a year ago, it's probably safe to say the Roadster has traveled farther than any other car in history. In fact, it's estimated to be about equal to driving every single road in the world 22 times. So the question is, where exactly is it?
Right now, the Roadster is traveling through space at thousands of kilometers per hour, faster than most fighter jets, but unlike a jet, the Roadster isn't burning any fuel because it doesn't have to. When SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launched on February 6, 2018, it gave the sports car an initial boost in speed, sort of like a slingshot that's been powering it through space ever since. And by November, that boost got it all the way to Mars. But Mars is just the first stop of many.
The Roadster is currently on an elliptical path around the sun, taking it past Venus and Mercury too. It completes one full orbit about every 557 days, and is scheduled to finish its first orbit before the end of 2019. Now if nothing unexpected happens, like a miniature asteroid strike that could pummel the car to pieces, researchers predict that the Roadster will orbit the sun for the next few million years.
Sadly, it's too small and too far away to see in the night sky, even with the aid of a telescope. But eventually, it will make its way back to earth. A team at the University of Toronto projected the Roadster's orbit decades into the future. They discovered that in the year 2091, it will likely pass close enough to earth that we'll be able to see it through a powerful telescope like the Panstar's telescope in Hawaii. But if you don't want to wait that long, you can easily track the Roadster online.
Fans like Ben Pearson use NASA data to project the car's location through space. For now, the convertible will continue its long drive around our inner solar system. And perhaps if humans make it to Mars like Musk hopes, we might even see the Roadster on our way there.