Physicists find a small chance the spacefaring Tesla will slam into Earth or Venus

Do airbags work in space?


I’d like to think that, several million years from now it’s discovered by aliens (or more likely our effectively alien descendants), prompting a huge WTF.


Actually, the PPO is fine with it. Even a Mars orbiter (Cat. III mission) requires no decontamination if it has a better-than-99% probability of not hitting Mars in 20 years, and a better-than-95% probability in 50 years.

And Venus is a Cat. I mission by definition - no concern, no decontamination needed.

Every final booster stage from every Mars probe ever is in the same class as the Roadster (< 1 in 10000 chance of impact) - no decontamination needed.

And “second-stage rocket booster slams into Earth”? Yeah, that’s what most of 'em do. In fact, current space-debris policy requires deorbit of earth-orbiting boosters (“slamming them into Earth”) in 25 years or less.

The FH booster+Tesla is in solar orbit, not Earth orbit, so it’s not required to slam into Earth, but it would be No Big Deal if it did. Upper-stage rocket boosters “slam into Earth” all the time.

Basically, the booster+car has become a Near-Earth Object (NEO) of the Apollo class, but even then, it’s not big enough to be classified as a Potentially Hazardous Object (PHO).

(The Chelyabinsk meteor appears to have been an Apollo-class object, but it is estimated to have been about 20 meters in diameter, massing 12-13,000 metric tons (Mg). Also not big enough to be a PHO, but a heckuva lot larger than Starman.)


That’s what golf courses are for.

Big, yes. Empty? Not quite.

The Tesla shares the space between the orbits of Earth and Mars with at least 17,000 objects 1m or larger (est. based on brightness), the vast majority of which are waaaay bigger than the Tesla. (Those would be the Apollo, Aten, and Amor class asteroids. Plus a few other stray rocket boosters. Starman himself is an Apollo-class object.)

And that’s the ones we know of so far. More are being discovered every week as our surveys continue and improve.

(And there’s every reason to suppose that the smaller bits scale in the usual logarithmic fashion, becoming more and more numerous all the way down to dust grains - but we can’t see the less-than-1m objects because they’re not bright enough to visible to our (current!) instruments.)

And yeah, it’s a vast space, so the odds of colliding with anything substantial are still pretty low.

But empty, it’s not. (-:

The UV in unattenuated sunlight is pretty harsh, to be sure, but deep-space charged-particle radiation will do the worst damage. Metal and mineral glasses will survive, but all the organics - the paint polymers, the carbon-fiber panels, the rubber tires, all the plastics, even the suit fabrics - will be rapidly degraded by high-speed charged particles, both “cosmic rays” (interstellar charged particles) and the solar ‘wind’ (also made of charged particles.)

Deep space is a much fiercer environment than Low Earth Orbit. LEO is inside a friendly magnetic bubble. No such protection between here and Mars! (And Mars has no magnetic field to speak of.)

It’s a very kewl car, but it’s a lousy long-duration interplanetary spacecraft. (-:


Thanks for that! I figured it was probably fine for roughly those reasons, but can never resist a chance to mention one of the coolest-sounding titles around (up there with Supreme Allied Commander).

I’m sure that the safety officer signed off on the airbag charges being pulled before the car was loaded on the rocket.

Detonation due to takeoff vibration during launch or solar heating during the trip would not be good.

But will the “Enhanced Autopilot” warn several times before the car slams into a planet?

I don’t think that guy got to hear his “sonic booms”.

i’m sure they did other lame things as well, such as deactivating the cars motors and not launching an unconscious James Bond into solar orbit.

These rich-pants guys just have to leave some kind of mark. Jim Bezos is going to do an Anathem-style clock. (Thousander Math and nuclear dump optional.)

The millennium hand reaches 3000, the cuckoo is about to crow … and it’s destroyed by a glowing streak from the sky.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.