Metal Remains of the Starman Roadster Will Eventually Crash into Earth, Venus or the Sun

In February, 2018, SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy which placed a Tesla Roadster with the Starman into on an Earth and Mars crossing orbit. The Roadster-Starman will come within a lunar distance of the Earth within the next 100 years. Researchers were able to statistically determine the probability of the Tesla colliding with the Solar system planets on astronomical timescales.

There was a shorter simulation of the Starman orbits by the same researchers but they have updated the work.

Although some of the orbits experience effects due to mean-motion and secular resonances criss-crossing the NEA space, the orbital evolution remains initially dominated by close encounters with the Earth, Venus, and Mars. Half simulations for the first 15 million years end with a collision with the Earth, Venus, and the Sun.

Chemist William Carroll determined that solar radiation, cosmic radiation, and micrometeoroid impacts will damage the car over time. Radiation will eventually break down any material carbon fiber parts. Tires, paint, plastic and leather are already gone. Eventually the aluminum frame, inert metals, and glass not shattered by meteoroids will be left.

There is about a 22% chance of a collision with the Earth, a 12% chance of hitting Venus and a 12% chance of hitting the Sun.

A precise orbit cannot be predicted beyond the next several centuries due to repeated chaotic scatterings. Long-term outcomes can be statistically analyzed a large suite of possible trajectories with slightly perturbed initial conditions. Repeated gravitational scatterings with Earth lead to a random walk. Collisions with the Earth, Venus and the Sun represent primary sinks for the Roadster’s orbital evolution. Collisions with Mercury and Mars, or ejections from the Solar System by Jupiter, are highly unlikely.

They calculate a dynamical half-life of the Tesla of approximately 15 million yr, with some 22%, 12% and 12% of Roadster orbit realizations impacting the Earth, Venus, and the Sun within one half-life, respectively. Because the eccentricities and inclinations in our ensemble increase over time due to mean-motion and secular resonances, the impact rates with the terrestrial planets decrease beyond a few million years, whereas the impact rate on the Sun remains roughly constant.

Arxiv – The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets

SOURCES- Arxiv, SpaceX

Written By Brian Wang