Not long after Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX launched a bright red Tesla Roadster into orbit, NASA added the vehicle to a select list of manmade celestial objects whose position can be tracked in space.
The success of this flight is also good for Florida, the longtime home of NASAs launch facility at the cape, which is forging a new life in the business environment of the private space industry.
The rocket, the Falcon Heavy, built by the private company SpaceX, lifted off on a glorious Tuesday afternoon, arcing perfectly over the waters of Cocoa Beach in a resplendent symbol of American technology and power. "A plaque on the attachment fitting between the Falcon Heavy upper stage and the Tesla is etched with the names of more than 6,000 SpaceX employees".
Falcon Heavy changes the game
Tesla Roadster travels through space, on February 8, 2018. They include exploration probes, such as Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, and some stray rocket parts left over from the Apollo moon missions, according to Brown. Revised orbital data provided by SpaceX and shared with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's system for tracking solar-system bodies showed the original graphic was incorrect.
McDowell explained that the error apparently arose when someone at SpaceX used an orbital parameter called C3 - a measure of the velocity needed to escape Earth's gravity - to determine the shape of the Roadster's orbit "and goofed while doing it".
Astronomers use the Horizons database to find out where they should point their telescopes to observe an object. With this information, you can theoretically track the exact location of the Tesla within the solar system.
McDowell calculated that the Roadster will venture by Mars at a safe distance of about 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) as it crosses the planet's orbit in July.