SpaceX's unusual payload, which took off on February 6, 2018, is now entering space beyond the orbit of Mars. The Tesla Roadster and its pilot were chosen as a fictional cargo for the inaugural launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Elon Musk, the brains behind the extravagant rocket launchers, argued at the time that a deadweight charge of metal blocks would have been simply too boring. Now, a year after launch, a study of Starman's trajectory around the Sun has put the cherry-red sports car on a possible collision course with Earth.
According to the orbital dynamics experts Hanno Rein, Daniel Tamayo and David Vokrouhlicky, there is a significant possibility of SpaceX's Starman colliding with the Earth or with Venus.
In a joint research paper published under the title of The Random Walk of Cars and Their Collision Odds with Planets, scientists predicted Starman's journey over the next million years.
Space experts have discovered that Earth, Venus and the Sun are the three most likely collision targets for the Starman.
Collisions with Mercury and Mars are the least likely scenario, as is the gravity of Jupiter catapulting the car out of the solar system.
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But even with the terrifying sight in mind, Starman's chances of colliding with the planet soon are very small.
Scientists have given Starman a six percent chance to hit Earth in the next million years.
They also predicted a 2.5 percent chance the sports car hit Venus in the same time period.
Professor Rein said, "Although we are not able to tell on which planet the car will end, we are comfortable saying that it will not survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years."
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In the study, the scientists said the Tesla sports car will approach the Earth within the first 100 years of its launch.
When that happens, the SpaceX spacecraft will arrive as close as the Moon.
The study says, "Using a set of several hundred achievements, we were able to statistically determine the likelihood that the Tesla will collide with the planets of the solar system on astronomical time scales.
"Although some of the orbits experience effects due to medium and secular motion resonances crossing the NEA space, orbital evolution remains initially dominated by close encounters with terrestrial planets, in particular Earth, Venus and Mars.
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"About half of our 15 Myr integrations result in a collision with Earth, Venus and the Sun."
During a period of 15 million years (Myr), there is a 22% chance of Starman reaching Earth and 12% chance of reaching Venus.
There is, however, also the distinct possibility that Starman will not be around long enough to see the Earth up close again.
Due to the violent and dangerous nature of space, Musk's sports car is probably disintegrating under the weight of intense space radiation.
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Sports cars, unlike the actual spacecraft, are not usually designed to withstand the forces of nature at play in the vacuum of space.
Space radiation is different from the types of radiation we experience here on Earth
William Carroll, a chemist at Indiana University, explained: "All organic products will be subject to degradation by the various types of radiation you will find there."
According to the NASA space agency, space beyond the protection of Earth's atmosphere is filled with charged particles and cosmic rays emanating in all directions.
Due to this problem, human cells in particular are at risk of breaking down and causing all sorts of health complications.
NASA said: "Space radiation is different from the types of radiation we experience here on Earth.
"Space radiation is composed of atoms in which the electrons were removed as the atom accelerated in interstellar space at speeds approaching the speed of light – eventually only the nucleus of the atom remains.
Space radiation is composed of three types of radiation: particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field; particles thrown into space during solar explosions; and galactic cosmic rays, which are high energy protons and heavy ions from outside our solar system.
"All these types of space radiation represent ionizing radiation."