Elon Musk’s Tesla, Starman fly past Mars 2 years after SpaceX launch

  • In February 2018, SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster owned by the company’s founder, Elon Musk, into deep space.
  • The electric vehicle, which has a spacesuit-clad “Starman” dummy in the driver’s seat, just made its first flyby of Mars.
  • To Starman, Mars would have appeared to be about one-tenth the size of the moon as seen from Earth, the astronomer Jonathan McDowell said.
  • The vehicle and its unlikely passenger, launched on the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket, may travel for millions of years before crashing, most likely back into Earth.
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An electric car that Elon Musk rocketed into space more than two years ago just flew past Mars for the first time.

SpaceX, the rocket company Musk founded, launched his old Tesla Roadster aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018 with a spacesuit-wearing dummy named “Starman” at the wheel.

The car

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SpaceX Starman dummy finally makes it to Mars in Elon Musk’s red Tesla

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Starman abides.


SpaceX

Starman has finally made it to the red planet — sort of. 

It’s been over two and a half years since SpaceX successfully demonstrated its Falcon Heavy launch system. Rather than using a hunk of concrete or some other sort of ballast for a test payload, Elon Musk offered up his cherry red Tesla piloted by a dummy in a spacesuit named Starman.

Starman was set on a trajectory toward Mars, the planet Musk hopes to help transform into a new destination for humans in the coming decades. 

Just over 32 months later, the Tesla finally made its first close pass by Mars on Wednesday, according to a tweet from SpaceX.

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Perseverance Rover will peer beneath Mars’ surface

Perseverance Rover Will Peer Beneath Mars' Surface
Perseverance’s Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) uses radar waves to probe the ground, revealing the unexplored world that lies beneath the Martian surface. The first ground-penetrating radar set on the surface of Mars, RIMFAX can provide a highly detailed view of subsurface structures down to at least 30 feet (10 meters) underground. In doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden layers of geology and help find clues to past environments on Mars, especially those with conditions necessary for supporting life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/FFI

After touching down on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will scour Jezero Crater to help us understand its geologic history and search for signs of past microbial life. But the six-wheeled robot won’t be looking just at the surface of Mars: The rover will peer deep below it with a ground-penetrating radar called RIMFAX.


Unlike similar instruments aboard Mars orbiters,

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NASA Ingenuity: Meet the woman launching a helicopter on Mars

What does it take to build a helicopter to fly on Mars? 

For starters, you can forget the remote control. Mars is more than 30 million miles away on a good day, so the time delay in sending and receiving signals means you couldn’t fly the spacecraft with a joystick — you have to send waypoints in advance from here on Earth and hope for the best. 

MiMi Aung, project leader of NASA’s Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Project, observes a flight test with JPL engineers Teddy Tzanetos (left) and Bob Balaram. 


NASA/JPL-Caltech

It also needs to charge itself. And it has to be able to take off in the incredibly thin Martian atmosphere (roughly 100 times thinner than Earth’s atmosphere), meaning the entire helicopter — including solar panel, batteries, computers, rotors and landing gear — has to weigh less than 4 pounds. And how do you test it in a simulated

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Perseverance Rover’s Twin Takes Its First Drive in Mars Yard

Despite NASA’s Perseverance rover being cooped up inside a spacecraft for another four months as it hurtles toward Mars, the team overseeing its operation is still hard at work preparing for the big day.

To ensure Perseverance functions exactly as it should when it reaches the Martian surface in February 2021, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California is putting the rover’s twin — called OPTIMISM — through its paces here on Earth.

OPTIMISM — short for Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars — is a full-scale engineering version of Perseverance that’s being used to test hardware and software before the commands are sent up to the rover. Those commands are important, too, as they are key in the mission’s goals to explore the planet for signs of ancient life, and collect rock and soil samples for return to Earth.

The twin rover also

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NASA Mars probes discover billion-year-old dune fields frozen in time

The HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped these dune fields in Valles Marineris. They’re estimated to be a billion years old


NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars has a roughly 4.5-billion-year history. Thanks to our robotic explorers, we have a good sense of its current climate and atmosphere. A new study of ancient sand dunes points to what it might have been like a billion years ago on the red planet. 

A team led by Planetary Science Institute (PSI) research scientist Matthew Chojnacki took a close look a wind-driven dune fields in Valles Marineris, an area of Mars known for its extensive canyons. The dunes appear to have been preserved through lithification, a geologic process that turns sediments into rock.

The team published a study on this window into the martian past in the journal

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Billion-year-old Mars sand dunes let scientists peek into planet’s windy past

The HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped these dune fields in Valles Marineris. They’re estimated to be a billion years old


NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars has a roughly 4.5-billion-year history. Thanks to our robotic explorers, we have a good sense of its current climate and atmosphere. A new study of ancient sand dunes points to what it might have been like a billion years ago on the red planet. 

A team led by Planetary Science Institute (PSI) research scientist Matthew Chojnacki took a close look a wind-driven dune fields in Valles Marineris, an area of Mars known for its extensive canyons. The dunes appear to have been preserved through lithification, a geologic process that turns sediments into rock.

The team published a study on this window into the martian past in the journal

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Mars set for close approach to Earth Tuesday, and you can see the show

nasamars

Mars will bright and beautiful in the October 2020 night sky.


NASA

Forget Halloween. This October is all about the glory of Mars, as the glimmering red planet puts on a show in the night sky. You can enjoy Mars as a bright point of light all month long, but there are two special dates to mark on your calendar: Oct. 6 when the planet makes a close approach to Earth, and Oct. 13, when it will be in opposition. 

Spotting Mars

Mars has a reputation as the “red” planet, but its color in the night sky is a little more on the Halloween side of the spectrum. It appears as a bright orange-red dot to the naked eye, like a little spot of glittering rust.

Mars’ distinctive color is one clue you’ve found

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Mars set for close approach to Earth this week, and you can see the show

nasamars

Mars will bright and beautiful in the October 2020 night sky.


NASA

Forget Halloween. This October is all about the glory of Mars, as the glimmering red planet puts on a show in the night sky. You can enjoy Mars as a bright point of light all month long, but there are two special dates to mark on your calendar: Oct. 6 when the planet makes a close approach to Earth, and Oct. 13, when it will be in opposition. 

Spotting Mars

Mars has a reputation as the “red” planet, but its color in the night sky is a little more on the Halloween side of the spectrum. It appears as a bright orange-red dot to the naked eye, like a little spot of glittering rust.

Mars’ distinctive color is one clue you’ve found

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NASA taps AI to identify “fresh craters” on Mars

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses an AI tool on a supercomputer cluster to identify potential craters on the Red Planet.

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The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera captured this impact crater on Mars.

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

On July 15, 1965, the Mariner 4 spacecraft snapped a series of photographs of Mars during its flyby of the Red Planet. These were the first “close-up” images taken of another planet from outer space, according to NASA. One of these first grainy photographs depicted a massive crater nearly 100 miles in diameter. Now, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is tapping artificial intelligence (AI) to help with its cosmic cartography efforts, using these technologies to identify “fresh craters” on Mars.

For more than 14 years, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has transmitted detailed images of Mars back to researchers on Earth. Scientists have used orbiter data to spot more than 1,000 new Martian craters.

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