Starman and his Tesla Roadster Celebrate One-Year of Space Travel

On February 6, 2018, a mannequin named Starman dressed in a spacesuit launched into orbit riding in a cherry-red Tesla roadster he borrowed from Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk.

Starman and his Tesla roadster marked the first payload take on the maiden voyage of SpaceX's massive Falcon Heavy rocket. In the past year, both Starman and the car have travelled over 470 million miles (760 million kilometres) around the sun. They are presently floating past Mars in an elliptical orbit that will last approximately 557 Earth days, as per the tracking site

According to the tracking website, Starman's roadster has surpassed its 36,000-mile (58,000 km) warranty by around 13,000 times in the last 12 months. However, as per Tesla’s website, the new warranty offers four-year protection or 50,000 miles (80,000 km). So, if Starman were able to update to the new 2019 rate, he'd have surpassed his warranty by around 9,500 times during his travels around the sun.

Starman could also use a great insurance policy as he journeys through the cosmos in his exposed roadster convertible. Starman is up against an endless bombardment of micrometeorites, solar radiation, and cosmic rays that will slowly but surely shred his car and his spacesuit to pieces. Tiny fragments of space rocks bang up the car from all sides, while the harsh radiation from the stars will cut through the carbon-carbon bonds that most of the car's plastic, leather and fabric components, are composed of, according to William Carroll, a chemist who spoke with Live Science in 2018.

Carroll stated that the organic materials that the car's leather seats, rubber tires, and paints are made of could have already disappeared due to the harsh environment. He said he wouldn’t give those materials a year in space. 

In one million years from today, the car will most likely be nothing but an aluminum frame. However, there is a good chance it will still be orbiting the sun. At first, SpaceX predicted that both the mannequin and the car could travel around the solar system for approximately 1 billion years.

In 2018, a study was published in the preprint journal, which predicted a shorter life span for the mannequin and his ride. According to that study, the roadster will most likely crash into Earth or Venus within the next few tens of millions of years. Fortunately, there's only a 6% chance that the car will crash into our planet in the next 1 million years and merely a 2.5% chance it will collide with Venus in that same time frame.

As of now, the mannequin and his car are approximately 163 million miles (262 million km) past Mars and cruising at a few thousand miles per hour.

Jessica Zeitz