What Happened To The Tesla Sportscar In Space?

Charge it to the space race, but as we speak, a cherry red sportscar is orbiting through the ominous vacuum of the cosmos, kicking up some stellar space dust, or so we presume. The journey began back in 2018 when multibillion-dollar electric car maker Elon Musk decided to launch his company SpaceX to new heights — literally.

In a stunt that was supposed to be "silly and fun," per Musk (via NBC Bay Area) SpaceX used the most powerful rocket ever built, the Falcon Heavy, to launch Elon Musk's personal electric sportscar into space. Fittingly, the turbulent Tesla was rocket red and adorned in sci-fi finishes. A life-sized dummy referred to only as Starman was positioned in the front seat sporting a spacesuit. According to CNN, the sportscar began its orbit to the tune of David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" and was immediately logged into NASA's catalog of artificial objects.

Given the utter absence of gravity and the futuristic implications of the experiment, this was giving Marty McFly in "Back to the Future" vibes, at first. But before we start thinking about the future, there is something more immediate to consider ... Where is the Tesla right now?

It's projected to be hundreds of millions of miles from Earth

According to the website Where Is Roadster? which is dedicated to determining the location of the space-bound luxury sportscar, at the time of this writing the Tesla was orbiting a little less than 200 million miles from Earth. Notedly, this is a number that increases with every passing second to log the vehicle as accurately as possible. CNN reports that if all went according to plan, which is true, at least, during the initial launch, then the Tesla's speedometer should be rocking a jaw-dropping 2.5 billion space miles already.

Since it left Earth more than five years ago, the sportscar is believed to have made quite the journey, even coming within 5 million miles of Mars back in 2020 (via CNN). Data suggests it's likely circled the sun 3.25 times since its departure. Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell suspects the sportscar is still in one piece despite having incurred some dings and scratches as a result of brushes with orbiting meteors. But much like the science fiction that inspired the stunt, all of the above-listed estimates are speculative.

Nobody's seen it since 2018

It's pretty surreal to imagine a dinged but not quite broken Tesla racking up billions of space miles in an oblong orbital pathway that infinitely circles the sun. The sheer imagery alone, as shown in the official SpaceX pamphlet and pictured above, is enough to inspire the daydreamer in us all. However, according to CNN News, the number of direct observations made of the vehicle since it launched in 2018 stands at a sobering zero. This statistic certainly brings things back to earth.

The Where is Roadster? website reports that it collects data from JPL at one-day intervals. However, that data contains some expected inaccuracies that can skew the numbers. Those inaccuracies will increase as more time passes and Starman progresses deeper into space. It's also important to note that the space-bound Tesla circled the Earth twice before finally departing into deep space. This, too, affected some of the estimates.

Given this information, the truest answer to where the Tesla might be right now is that nobody knows for sure. Though it's estimated to be hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, this is presuming that it's still in one piece and hasn't been completely obliterated by a spiraling space object. Now that we know what we don't know, a bigger question rests on the horizon...

Will the Tesla crash into Earth?

Sure, the dashboard reads "Don't Panic" but maybe we should. Some experts suggest there's a 22% chance the fiery red car will come crashing right back into the Earth which is probably not the impression Elon Musk hoped to make. To add to the mystery, the impending Earth-crashing event could happen at any point in the next 15 million years, which means we could come face to face with a falling 2,690-pound roadster racecar tomorrow or later down the road. In better odds, Astrophysics professor Hanno Rein and his team estimate there is only a 6% chance the car will crash into the Earth in the next million years, according to CNET

There's also a 12% chance it will crash into Venus and another 12% chance it could drive right into the sun, per CNN. While this is the way some of the best sci-fi movies have ended, it's not exactly the ending we should aspire to in real life. According to Business Insider, the fiery red Tesla is almost certainly doomed to crash in space at some point. The question isn't if but when.