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

7 thoughts on “Metal Remains of the Starman Roadster Will Eventually Crash into Earth, Venus or the Sun”

  1. Ah, transpiration cooling! That would be much more effective than a simple cooling loop.

    With transpiration cooling, the ship effectively sweats, and is then insulated from the plasma sheath by the evaporated coolant.

  2. If it has a propellant leak, it couldn’t propulsively land anyway so the heat shield would be a bit of a moot point. Since there’ll be a fleet of them, they could just send up a rescue ship. Something that size is bound to have supplies for a long time. After the rescue mission, send a team up to repair it enough to land with no one on board, for refurbishment on Earth.

  3. I think in this case, the BFS have to be able to withstand ONE re-entry but with no requirement of re-use. The hull of BFS will be damaged but not broken.

  4. Spinning on re-entry is super no good.

    I worry that a propellant leak leaves the BFS with an inadequate heat sink meaning that you cannot re-enter.

  5. Maybe if they spin the BFR on re entry like a Rotisserie chicken?

    im glad they got rid of the carbon fiber crap.. that stuff sucks anyways… cosmic rays will rot the hall over time…. and it’s too easy to crack…. and It’s too labor intensive to build anything out of it..

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