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Elon Musk's Red Roadster Heads for Asteroid Belt

The Tesla Roadster that Elon Musk blasted into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket blasted past the orbit of Mars and is headed toward the dwarf planet Ceres, in our solar system’s asteroid belt.

“Third burn successful,” SpaceX and Tesla CEO Musk tweeted Feb. 7 about an ignition of the rocket carrying the Roadster.

“Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt.”

The good news is that the Martians are probably less at risk of having an innovative Earthling’s fancy four-wheeler landing on their heads, as it appears the Roadster’s orbit will be further than Mars than planned.

The red Roadster — the production version of which will be, according to Musk, the fastest street-legal car in history if and when it hits the market — is expected to stay in orbit around the Sun for “several hundred million years” and possibly more than a billion, a spokesman for SpaceX has said. The vehicle would at times “come extremely close to Mars,” spokesman John Taylor said before the Falcon Heavy launch.

Musk had told reporters there was a “tiny, tiny” chance the car — with an astronaut-suited mannequin in the driver’s seat — could strike the Red Planet.

The asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and contains most of the asteroids in the solar system, where they rotate around the sun.

With the new flight path, a Roadster crash into Mars is looking less likely, but Musk and SpaceX have yet to say whether the hot-rod Tesla is at risk of collision with any other objects, possibly including a cosmic fire truck on an alien space-highway.

Meanwhile, the Falcon Heavy launch may have gone some way toward healing a rift between Musk and President Donald Trump, after Musk in June withdrew from a White House advisory role following Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

“Congratulations @ElonMusk and @SpaceX on the successful #FalconHeavy launch,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best!”

In response, Musk tweeted thanks on behalf of SpaceX, and added, “An exciting future lies ahead!”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a rival rocket man to Musk, had on Monday tweeted support for SpaceX, while touting his own space-flight company via hashtags of its name and its Latin motto that translates to “step by step, ferociously.”

“Best of luck @SpaceX with the Falcon Heavy launch tomorrow — hoping for a beautiful, nominal flight! @BlueOrigin #GradatimFerociter,” Bezos tweeted.

Musk responded with a winking “kiss” emoji.

© 2018 San Jose Mercury News under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

Image credit: Tesla/Elon Musk Instagram page.

Read more on: NASA, SpaceX, Elon Musk, Space Station, Astronauts, Moon, Mars, Solar System, ISS, ESA, Northrop Grumman, Tesla

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