This time we found a car floating in space

For those of you who are unaware of the Star Trek universe, the above paragraph describes what happens in the August 28, 1995 episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first episode of the second season, called The 37.

The Voyager crew stumble upon Farmer Ford’s red truck as they attempt to return home. This reveals an ancient SOS signal from a nearby planet, and this in turn leads to Voyager landing on the planet, and the crew there find eight humans stranded in suspended animation. Among them, Amelia Earhart, the American pilot woman who died in 1937.

But it’s the Ford we’re interested in here because, as strange as the idea of ​​a car floating in space was when the episode first aired, it’s something that really happened in our world, not so long ago.

Yes, that’s the Cherry Red Tesla Roadster Elon Musk sent into space in February 2018, when he used it as a dummy payload for the Falcon Heavy’s first test flight. A car that entered the history books as the first such object (and probably the last, or not) to be sent beyond Earth’s orbit, and has been the topic of conversation for many month that year.

Over time, because humans don’t have a great attention span, interest in car adventures in space waned, and we kind of lost track of them. I just saw Voyager’s again The 37 episode, I had this sudden urge to see what the Roadster is doing now.

The last time we heard about the car was in October of last year, when it “made its first close approach with Mars”, flying at a distance of less than 5 million miles from the surface of the red planet.

So, it took the thing over two years to get close to Mars – a journey we all know takes a lot less than that, but keep in mind that the Roadster doesn’t have any thrusters or motors for it. move, and only does so thanks to the nudge the Falcon Heavy gave him here on Earth.

At present, the car is floating a distance of nearly 130 million miles (over 207 million km) from home, traveling at a speed of over 41,000 mph (67,000 km / h). The data is provided by the specialist Where Is Roadster tracker, which also indicates that when the car is moving away from the Sun.

When it was launched, the Roadster carried with it a mannequin wearing a spacesuit nicknamed Starman, a Hot Wheels Roadster toy on the car’s dashboard with a mini-Starman inside, a data storage device with a copy of the novels of the Isaac Asimov Foundation and David Bowie’s Space Strangeness explodes in the speakers.

If we were to think of the Roadster as a functional car, we could argue that the distance traveled so far would be sufficient for the VE have traveled almost 80 times all the roads in the world. Bowie’s song is said to have been played over 355,000 times during this period.

Now, as with any celestial body, the Roadster has a few rules to follow, and that pretty much means we somehow know where it will be for the foreseeable future. We also have a lot of recordings on the thing.

But, of course, even celestial mechanics can surprise every now and then, and the chances of the car coming back and crashing into Earth in the future are not out of the question (the first point closest to Earth should be in 2091, when it will enter at a lunar distance from our planet). And of course, the recordings tend to get lost or forgotten.

So imagine that …

The year is 2371. A Bezos-class tourist spacecraft approaches the Sun for its usual, high-risk, high-reward hot-diving maneuver. Before getting into position for what is also known as 3 Hours in Hell, he stumbles upon a cherry red Tesla Roadster, floating aimlessly through the void of space.

At first, the humans on board don’t know what to think. In time, they will unearth the car’s past, and tourists will forever remember the moment as “This time we found a car floating in space.”

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