What Do You Get If You Cross a Tesla Roadster...
...with a SpaceX rocket?
As ambitions go launching a car into space is a pretty lofty one, but that’s exactly what happened in February when the Tesla Roadster became the first automobile to enter orbit.
A long held goal of engineer turned inventor turned business mogul Elon Musk, this venture sees his two companies combine for an altogether different kind of mission. Indeed the Tesla Roadster has been attached to a Falcon Heavy rocket no less, allowing for a top speed in keeping with galaxies if not motorways.
‘Traffic enforcement’ cameras are yet to be installed up there, apparently..
Years in the planning lift off occurred on February 7th when the world’s most powerful rocket, it’s in-built car and its sole passenger (a dummy christened Starman, what else?) successfully launched, landing two of its three main boosters back on Earth. A third failed to find a designated ship.
The plan? To cruise the solar system and veer close to Mars once in a while. The reality? Well that remains to be seen but early estimates expect the vessel to in fact overshoot and drive towards the asteroid belt. Perhaps a happy medium is the most likely outcome.
An event on this scale commands publicity and a live feed was duly setup so space and car boffins alike could watch the Roadster disappear from view and into ‘deep space’ a week or so after its original take off. What happens to it next is the subject of fierce debate.
Undeniable is that here on Earth everything is protected by a powerful magnetic field, guarding against harsh radiation that stems from the sun and cosmic rays. Space possesses no such shield. As a result the sad likelihood is the Roadster will not be discovered by alien beings some billion years from now but instead succumb to degradation far sooner than that.
Science dictates organics are likely to falter first. Plastics and the overall carbon fibre frame are expected to deteriorate under severe pressure. Such elements are made up of carbon-hydrogen bonds that stand no chance in such an environment.
According to William Carroll, a chemist from Indiana University who specialises in plastics and organic molecules, the process will be akin to hacking away at the red sports car with a knife. An unfortunate end to a starry-eyed project.
For Musk’s part he remains undeterred. “I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future” he enthused, along with a host of tweets celebrating a largely positive launch.
Romantics acknowledge his desire to colonise Mars, however fanciful. Cynics claim this event is nothing more than orchestrated publicity for the South African and his two ‘babies’.
SpaceX has made its name manufacturing and launching rockets for commercial and military applications alike. Its newest rocket is the most powerful to date – expanding upon the Falcon 9’s first stage booster and second stage with two further Faclon 9 stages. Not forgetting the accompanying 27 engines and a capacity to lift up to 140,000 lbs..
It is that aforementioned second stage upon which the Tesla Roadster has been installed, its red bodywork primed to encounter debris such as micrometeorites. The latter leave what is termed space ‘junk’ filled with craters over time. That spells danger for Starman.
Back on Earth the Tesla Roadster is reported to go from 0 to 60mph in just 1.9 seconds, with a top speed of 250mph. It is destined to become the fastest road legal electric car ever created, with production slated to begin in 2020. As for battery life, those working on the design believe 620 miles can be driven before drivers need to plug in.
This voyage will heighten expectations ahead of that upcoming launch, after all who doesn’t want to own a car both road and space worthy? Years from now we may all be cruising about in space with the soft top down but the Tesla will always be the first car to test drive that route. And nobody will ever be able to take that away from Elon Musk.
To track Starman’s journey visit: http://www.whereisroadster.com/index.html