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Elon Musk’s Tesla and its ‘Starman’ driver just flew past Mars for the first time

Tesla Roadster Launched Into Space 2 Years Ago Floats Past Mars

Starman just cruised by Mars for the first time.

The spacesuit-clad mannequin is “driving” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, which launched in February 2018 on the debut flight of the company’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. And the duo just hit a big milestone on their cosmic journey.

“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 via Twitter Wednesday (Oct. 7). (One astronomical unit is the average Earth-sun distance — about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)

Since its launch in February 2018, the Roadster has traveled 1.3 billion miles through space, far exceeding its 36,000 mile warranty, according to whereisroadster.com, which has been tracking the vehicle.

It is currently heading in Earth’s direction at 17,314 miles per hour. Back on land, the Roadster tops out at 250 miles per hour.

Musk’s ride is the first car to leave Earth, and has the phrase “Don’t Panic!” displayed on its dashboard — a reference to Musk’s favorite book, “The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Shortly after the Tesla Roadster launched, three researchers at the University of Toronto calculated that the car would drift through space until it crashes into Earth, Venus, or the sun sometime in the next 10 million years.

Musk is the CEO of both Palo Alto-based Tesla and Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX.

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