Elon Musk’s car that was recently shot into space as part of SpaceX’s rocket test flight will probably crash with Earth or Venus ultimately.
Hanno Rein, an assistant professor at University of Toronto in Canada said, “It will likely end up colliding with Earth or Venus, but there’s no need to panic since the probability of that happening even within the next million years is very small.”
The car was sent into space on February 6, as a part of the payload for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight. While rocket test flights normally have a dummy payload, Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX decided to send his personal Tesla Roadster.
The car does not contain any scientific instruments but it is considered as a near-earth object and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tracks it along with other objects that travel close to Earth.
After running a series of simulations scientists concluded that the probability of it colliding with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be six per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.
They also determined that the first close encounter the Tesla will have with Earth will be in 2091, when it will pass within a few hundred thousand kilometres of Earth. The car is presently on a Mars and Earth crossing orbit, meaning it will travel on an elliptical path that repeatedly carries it beyond Mars and then back to Earth’s orbital distance from the sun.
“Each time it passes Earth, the car will get a gravitational kick,” said Dan Tamayo, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto. “Depending on the details of these encounters, the Tesla can be kicked onto a wider or smaller orbit, so it’s random,” Tamayo said.
“Over time the orbit will undergo what’s called a random walk, similar to the fluctuations we see in the stock market, that will allow it to wander the inner solar system,” he said.
“Although we are not able to tell on which planet the car will ultimately end up, we’re comfortable saying it won’t survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years,” he said.
While Earth is likely to be the car’s final destination, it is safe to say that if not all, most of it will be destroyed in the atmosphere itself.