science

A stunt worth the effort

“There is a star waiting in the sky. It would like to come and meet us,” but it is 37 million miles away and is busy Mars passes.

Almost three years have passed since Elon Musk I fired a Falcon Heavy Into space carrying his Tesla Roadster convertible. In the driver’s seat, a model named “Starman” after the David Bowie song is shown wearing a prototype of a spacesuit designed by Musk’s company, SpaceX.

Weird and burnt cash for an evocative trick: That’s a mask, with more money than he could spend on Earth.

Once again at launch, the car stereo made the Boise “life on Mars?” The dashboard flashes with “Don’t panic,” referring to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

But Starman isn’t just a gimmick. The spacecraft will orbit the sun for tens of billions of years at a speed of 13.5 miles per hour. So it will cross the orbits of Mars and Earth many times, coming within 0.05 astronomical units, or less than 5 million miles, from the surface of the Red Planet this week.

This is a major advance toward NASA and Musk’s personal goal of collecting more information about Mars and eventually even colonizing it.

Getting a puppet millions of miles away doesn’t mean we’re about to get a human out there, but counting flips that way is a good sign we’re on our way.

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Phil Schwartz

"Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff."

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