Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster Could Hit Earth

A SpaceX rocket launched at dusk on Dec. 22 created a magical display across the region as the exhaust’s water vapor hit cold air. Another ghostly viewing could be on tap at dawn Saturday

The Tesla vehicle that Elon Musk launched into space is likely to stay there for tens of millions of years before crashing into the Earth or Venus.

But given the Roadster is estimated to have a virtually immortal half-life of some 20 million years (as it ever-so-slowly erodes into nothingness in space), the team ultimately "expect collision probabilities with the Earth to be substantial", they write in their paper.

This news comes as a result of an analysis by Czech and Canadian researchers.

Over that epic expanse of time (and space), it's fair to say that a lot of things could happen - and the further ahead we estimate, the fuzzier the picture becomes, given how many gravitational factors could affect the overall trajectory of the vehicle (and the second stage of the Falcon Heavy rocket, to which it remains attached).

In fact, the space-going auto with an astronaut-suited mannequin at the wheel may actually collide with our planet eventually, though the chances are fairly small and the time horizon far, far away, researchers found.

The whimsical payload selected for the experimental flight was Musk's old cherry-red Tesla sports auto. The ride also features a space-suited mannequin strapped in the driver's seat while the radio keeps playing a soundtrack of David Bowie songs. It will pass within about 68.7 million miles of Mars on June 10 and cross the red planet's orbit in July before reaching its farthest distance from the sun - 154.7 million miles - on November 9.

"Although we are not able to tell on which planet the auto will ultimately end up, we're comfortable saying it won't survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years", lead author Hanno Rein, director of the University of Toronto Scarborough's Centre for Planetary Science, said in a statement.

"There were two possibilities, either it would stay with the terrestrial planets of the inner Solar System, or it would go further out where all these other asteroids and other Kuiper Belt objects are". But this did not seem to be the case.

"We perform simulations to determine the fate of the object over the next several million years, under the relevant perturbations acting on the orbit", the scientist said in the paper.

If it does return to Earth, it is likely to burn up completely, although there is a possibility that a small chunk could hit the ground.

The researchers also determined that the space Tesla will make a relatively close pass by Earth in 2091, coming within a few hundred thousand kilometers of the planet. It will get a bit damaged by small-scale meteorites that might hit it by chance. Well, it turns out that might not be the last we see of it.

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