Mars and Beyond
It's been barely two weeks since SpaceX successfully launched the first Falcon Heavy into orbit, and many are curious as to where it and its unconventional passenger are right now. Instead of sending something boring as the Heavy's first payload, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk launched his own Tesla Roadster. On board is a mannequin affectionately called "Starman."
Starman, who is dressed in a SpaceX suit, was supposedly en route towards the orbit of Mars and then towards the asteroid belt, to the tune of David Bowie's music. In any case, Musk has said that Starman's trajectory after launch had gone a bit off from its intended path.
Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt. pic.twitter.com/bKhRN73WHF
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2018
It turns out, it might not have veered off that far, at least according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which released information as to the Roadster's whereabouts. Now, you can keep track of the Roadster and Starman using NASA's data, which engineer Ben Pearson has wonderfully put into a website called Whereisroadster.com.
A Lonely Starman
Pearson was so fascinated by the Falcon Heavy launch that he made his own calculations for Starman's trajectory, partially because he's always been a fan of the SpaceX CEO. “I like that he’s willing to take risks and do cool stuff that people just keep saying it’s not possible and he figures out a way to make it possible," Pearson told The Verge
However, Pearson noticed his results were different from what Musk announced. This made Pearson unease, but NASA's data ended up showing that he was right.
“I was just relieved to know that I wasn’t doing anything critically wrong," Pearson said in his interview with The Verge. "Elon Musk is a visionary man, incredibly far forward, but there’s a reality distortion field when it comes to him."
In case you're wondering, Pearson's website shows that Starman is now 3,609,979 km (2,243,136 miles) from Earth, moving away from Earth at a speed of 10,844 km/h (6,738 mph), as of writing. It'll continue to move in orbit around the Sun, making a close pass to the Earth on 2091, said Pearson. That is, of course, assuming that Starman's Roadster survives in space for that long.
At any rate, at least we know where it is, which is more than what we can say for the Falcon Heavy's Center Core. For now, SpaceX is barreling ahead with their other projects, including their latest Falcon 9 mission that will launch two of their first internet satellites into space.