CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, February 7, 2018 - SpaceX CEO and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk sent his own cherry red Tesla Roadster into space Tuesday atop a SpaceX rocket, making it the first electric car to fly in space.


The Tesla was supposed to orbit around the Sun at the distance of Mars’ orbit. Musk called it "a red Roadster for the Red Planet," but ... something went wrong.


Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster as it cruises past the Earth, February 6, 2018 (Photo courtesy Elon Musk)



Falcon Heavy, the rocket carrying the Roadster, instead put the car into a farther orbit, one that extends out into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.


After launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Tesla cruised through the Van Allen radiation belts aboard Falcon Heavy for six hours, an event live-streamed by SpaceX. Then came the final engine burn, and Falcon Heavy flung the electric car that Musk once drove around Los Angeles into a final orbit.


Now, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has officially listed Musk's Roadster as a "celestial object," a spacecraft. It will be monitored along with all the other objects in the solar system, from planets to satellites.


At the wheel of the Roadster rides a spacesuit-wearing mannequin nicknamed Starman. On the dashboard is a Hot Wheels toy model Roadster with a mini-Starman inside. The message “Don’t panic!” is stamped on the dash. David Bowie is playing on the speakers, and a data storage device contains a copy of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels. On one the car's circuit board is stamped "Made on Earth by humans." A plaque is etched with the names of some 6,000 SpaceX employees."


On Tuesday Musk tweeted exultantly, "Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth." He staged the stunt to demonstrate that the new Space X rocket, Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket ever built by a private company, can fly payloads as far as the orbit of Mars. He knows his market. Companies are already testing gear for asteroid mining, space tourism and moon expeditions. Space-based energy production could be a reality within a decade or two.


Musk has said the Tesla Roadster could drift in space for a billion years, but Starman and the Roadster must endure constant collisions with micrometeorites and other space junk as well as extreme radiation that could tear them both to bits.


By Sunny Lewis, Environment News Service (ENS)