“There’s a starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us,” but he’s 37 million miles away and busy passing Mars.
It’s been nearly three years since Elon Musk launched a Falcon Heavy rocket into space carrying his own Tesla Roadster convertible. In the driver’s seat is the mannequin dubbed “Starman,” after the David Bowie song, wearing a spacesuit prototype designed by Musk’s company, SpaceX.
Eccentric and burning cash for an evocative stunt: That’s Musk, with more money than he can possibly spend on Earth.
Back at launch, the car’s stereo blasted Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” while the dashboard flashed “Don’t Panic” in a nod to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
But Starman isn’t only a stunt. The craft will orbit the sun for tens of billions of years at about 13.5 miles per hour. So it will cross the orbits of Mars and Earth many times, and came within .05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, from the Red Planet’s surface this week.
This is significant progress toward NASA and Musk’s personal goal of collecting more info on Mars and eventually even colonizing it.
Getting a dummy millions of miles away doesn’t mean we’re that close to getting a human there, but counting coup this way is a fine sign we’re on our way.
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