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Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster just whizzed past Mars

Remember Starman? No, not the David Bowie song. We’re talking about the mannequin passenger behind the wheel of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster that blasted into space aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket on its maiden test flight in 2018.

Well, Starman made its first close approach to Mars on Wednesday — something the commercial space transportation company wanted the world to know about.

“Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made its first close approach with Mars today — within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the red planet,” SpaceX announced in a tweet.

Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made its first close approach with Mars today—within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the Red Planet

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 7, 2020

For those with a fuzzy memory, the spacesuit-clad mannequin and Tesla Roadster sports car functioned as the Falcon Heavy’s payload for the rocket’s very first outing in February 2018.

Talking about his Roadster shortly after the rocket blasted skyward — yes, it was Musk’s personal vehicle that wentin  to space — the SpaceX and Tesla CEO admitted that the unusual cargo was “kinda silly and fun,” but added that “silly and fun things are important” because such stunts can generate interest in big projects and inspire others to get involved.

Musk added: “It just has the same seats like a normal car has, it’s literally a normal car, in space … I kinda like the absurdity of that.”

According to the Where is Roadster? website, which continues to track Starman’s journey through deep space, the fastest-moving mannequin in human history is currently 38 million miles from Earth, orbiting the sun once every 557 days or so. The website also notes that, at the time of writing, the vehicle has exceeded its 36,000-mile warranty 36,070 times.

The next time Starman performs a flyby of Mars, three separate missions will have arrived on the Martian surface, with spacecraft from the U.S., China, and the the United Arab Emirates heading there right now for a February 2021 rendezvous with the red planet.

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Trevor Mogg
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