You may remember that, as a publicity stunt, SpaceX propelled a red Tesla, driven by a dummy in a spacesuit named Starman with the words “DON’T PANIC” written on the control panel, into space using its Falcon Heavy rocket. That car is now a permanent advertisement on the NASA HORIZONS directory of solar system bodies.
Want to see for yourself? Eric Holthaus over at Grist reported that you can just head over to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s HORIZONS web interface, click “change” next to the target body, type in “SpaceX,” hit enter, then click “Generate ephemeris.”
You’ll find both the details about the Roadster, as well as its ephemeris, or its position in the sky. This is the same system that tracks all the other bodies in the Solar System, including satellites and, you know, Mars.
But the page also reveals a secret: The car also has a Hot Wheels toy model with a mini-Starman inside and a copy of Isaac Asmiov’s Foundation novels on a storage drive. The car is now in an orbit that takes it between .99 and 1.7 astronomical units, where one astronomical unit is approximately the distance between the Earth and the Sun. On average, Mars is 1.5 au from the Sun.
Along with coordinates, there’s a warning: “Prediction errors could increase significantly over time due to modelled solar presure [sic], thermal radiation, or outgassing accelerations that are not characterised.”
Who knows, maybe in a few million years a hunk of irradiated metal might collide into the Earth as a mark of mythical hubris from an ancient species. Wouldn’t that be funny? [via Eric Holthaus’ Twitter]