A Harvard astronomer schooled Elon Musk on his tweet about the Tesla Roadster, which he put into orbit in early 2018.
“My car is currently orbiting Mars,” Musk tweeted yesterday as part of a larger exchange.
Harvard’s Jonathan McDowell, who works at the university’s Center for Astrophysics, was not going to let the remark go. Instead, he informed Musk that the car is still tied to the Falcon Heavy rocket that sent it into space and that a mannequin is still driving it.
In response, McDowell said: “Well, no,” It’s orbiting the Sun and occasionally passes the orbit of Mars. Not the same thing.”
Musk appears to be unaware of his own car’s orbit. However, it’s still difficult to determine the motive behind Musk’s tweet. Perhaps he expected that the public would simply ignore a tweet intended to promote the Tesla brand. Maybe he was trolling, which is Musk’s typical pattern.
McDowell is correct, whatever the case may be. He calculated the trajectory of the car/rocket tandem himself. He followed up with a tweet that displayed the Roadster’s orbital route and stated that data transmission from the rocket had ceased a few days after launch.
“We determined the orbital elements soon after launch,” McDowell tweeted. “Kepler’s laws let us propagate them to the present day.”
Several Twitter users feared the Roadster might crash land on Mars or Earth; however, this is not the case. Instead, scientists discovered that the car’s chances of colliding with either planet in the next million years are about 6%, and even if it does, it will most likely burn up as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.
It’s comforting to know that it is no longer posing a threat to anyone, even if Musk has no idea where his car is.