Tesla car shot into space by Elon Musk's SpaceX could collide with Earth – but not for tens of millions of years

The car will fly past close to its home planet many times before it possibly smashes into it

Andrew Griffin
Monday 19 February 2018 15:09
SpaceX 'Starman' glides into orbit in a Tesla Roadster after Falcon Heavy launch

The Tesla car that Elon Musk's SpaceX shot into space could gradually smash into the Earth.

There's no need to worry, however. If the car does collide with us, it's likely to take tens of millions of years, and there's only a 6 per cent chance it will hit Earth in the next millions of years.

But that doesn't mean we'll have to wait all that time before it gets close to us. The initial orbit of the car will see it pass by the Earth many times, including a close encounter scheduled for 2091.

Eventually, it will go on an orbit that will take it relatively close to the sun and other planets, too.

That's according to a new study that has tracked the path of the electric car as it flies through space, and predicted its journey through the solar system in the coming years. They did so using some of the same techniques that allow scientists to track near-earth asteroids as they fly past, since the car is likely to act in much the same way.

It concluded that the most likely result is that the car will collide with either the Earth or Venus, at some point during its orbit. Knowing exactly when and even whether that will happen is very difficult, since the car could be disturbed by its encounters with other orbits – but researchers suggest the chance of a collision in the next million years with Earth is 6 per cent and with Venus is 2.5 per cent.

It's most likely that the car will just keep flying around for tens of millions of years before crashing, the authors write in their paper 'The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets'. It could even end its time crashing into and being burnt up by the sun, the authors say.

If you want to track that journey as the car flies through space, there is thankfully a website devoted to doing just that. WhereIsRoadster.com is showing the journey in real time, logging not just where the car is now but also how far it is travelled, what speed it is moving at, and how many times is has exceeded its warranty.

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