How to track Elon Musk’s car as it travels through space

Greg Evans
Monday 12 March 2018 13:00
news

In February, SpaceX launched their revolutionary rocket Falcon Heavy into the solar system with Elon Musk's own car going along for the ride.

By now, you're more than likely aware of the fact that the red Tesla Roadster contained a dummy astronaut named 'Starman' embarking on a cruise around the universe.

A live stream of the first hours of his journey was available to people online - but as he dove deeper into space, the feed cut out due to the car's battery dying.

Now that it has been in space for over a month, you are probably wondering exactly where Starman has gotten to. The answer is just over 6 million miles away.

How do we know this? Well, thanks to the website Where Is The Roadster?, you can track exactly where the car is in space, in real time.

Musk himself has already tweeted about the site, sharing a link on social media back in February.

Astronomers had already captured images of the car from Earth, but this tool will allow you to see how far it has travelled, how fast it is travelling and when it is likely to reach milestones.

It was designed and constructed by electrical engineer Ben Pearson who has used data provided by Nasa through their Jet Propulsion Laboratory, according to IFL Science.

The site has determined that the car is travelling towards Mars at 39,357 mph, but is still over 116,000,000 miles away from the red planet, at the time of writing.

Additionally, the car has achieved a fuel economy of 476.3 miles per gallon and would have used up 126,000 gallons of fuel already.

Pearson has also created a fun 3D animation which reveals what we would have been able to see if the stream from the car was still running.

Pearson says that he was compelled to make the website after he noticed the interest online in tracking the car in space.

He is quoted by the website as saying:

These questions had me thinking about the subject. I came to realise that people really were interested in the tracking of these objects.

I started thinking about how I could manage to get this information, and then I came to realise that I could provide the tracking for it myself!

I quickly registered this domain name and started to think about how I could get the information so I could pass it on to you.

My first attempt wasn't pretty. I started with the TLEs of the spacecraft orbiting the Earth and provided enough acceleration at the right time to achieve the 12 km2/s2 that Elon Musk had already mentioned.

I put together this estimate, found the location from Earth for a few days and posted that information to the website. 

He adds that over 25,000 people visited the site on its very first day, which just goes to show that all you need to pique people's interest in science is to put a car into space.

HT IFL Science

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