The unusual SpaceX payload, which blasted off on February 6, 2018, is now barreling through space beyond the orbit of Mars. The Tesla Roadster and its pilot were chosen as a dummy payload for the maiden launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Elon Musk, the mastermind behind the extravagant rocket launch, argued at the time a deadweight payload of metal blocks would have been simply too boring. Now, one year on from the launch, a study of Starman’s trajectory around the Sun put the cherry-red sports car on a potential collision path with Earth.
According to orbital dynamics experts Hanno Rein, Daniel Tamayo and David Vokrouhlicky, there is a significant possibility of SpaceX’s Starman crashing into Earth or Venus.
In a joint research paper, published under the title of The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets, the scientists predicted Starman’s journey over the next few million years.
The space experts found Earth, Venus and the Sun are the three most likely crash targets for Starman.
Collisions with Mercury and Mars are the least likely scenario as is Jupiter’s gravity catapulting the car out of the solar system.
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But even with the terrifying outlook in mind, the odds of Starman crashing into the planet anytime soon are pretty slim.
The scientists gave Starman safe a six percent chance of hitting the Earth in the next one million years.
They also predicted a 2.5 percent chance of the sports car crashing into Venus in the same time frame.
Professor Rein said: “Although we are not able to tell on which planet the car will ultimately end up, we’re comfortable saying it won’t survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years.”
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In the study, the scientists said the Tesla sports car will make a close approach of the Earth within the first 100 years of its launch.
When this happens, the SpaceX spacecraft will come as close as the Moon.
The study reads: “Using an ensemble of several hundred realisations we were able to statistically determine the probability of the Tesla colliding with the Solar system planets on astronomical timescales.
“Although some of the orbits experience effects due to mean-motion and secular resonances criss-crossing the NEA space, the orbital evolution remains initially dominated by close encounters with the terrestrial planets, in particular Earth, Venus and Mars.
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“About half of our 15 Myr integrations result in a collision with the Earth, Venus, and the Sun.”
Over a period of 15 million years (Myr) there is a 22 percent chance of Starman hitting Earth and 12 percent chance of it striking Venus.
There is, however, also the distinct possibility Starman will not be around long enough to see the Earth up-close ever again.
Due to the violent and hazardous nature of space, Mr Musk’s sports car is most likely crumbling to pieces under the weight of intense space radiation.
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Sports cars, unlike actual spacecraft, are not typically designed to withstand the forces of nature at play in the vacuum of space.
Space radiation is different from the kinds of radiation we experience here on Earth
William Carroll, a chemist at the University of Indiana, explained: “All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation you will run into there.”
According to space agency NASA, space beyond the protection of Earth’s atmosphere is filled with charged particles and cosmic rays emanating in all directions.
Because of this problem, humans cells in particular, are at risk of breaking down and causing all sorts of health complications.
NASA said: “Space radiation is different from the kinds of radiation we experience here on Earth.
“Space radiation is comprised of atoms in which electrons have been stripped away as the atom accelerated in interstellar space to speeds approaching the speed of light – eventually, only the nucleus of the atom remains.
Space radiation is made up of three kinds of radiation: particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field; particles shot into space during solar flares; and galactic cosmic rays, which are high-energy protons and heavy ions from outside our solar system.
“All of these kinds of space radiation represent ionizing radiation.”