Elon Musk's SpaceX car mission overshoots Mars orbit

  • 08/02/2018

A car that was launched into space and intended to orbit around the sun has exceeded its target of at times reaching Mars' orbit, and is now hurtling towards the much more treacherous Asteroid Belt.

Elon Musk's SpaceX on Wednesday (NZ time) launched the world's most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, into space with another of Mr Musk's creations - a bright red Tesla Roadster - tucked into its nose.

But just hours after taking off, Mr Musk took to Twitter to admit his initial plan to make the $138,000 car and its Star Man driver orbit the sun for a billion years close to Mars was not what ended up happening.

"Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt," he wrote.

While the car is now on track to enter and orbit the Asteroid Belt after travelling through deep space for a few months, it's unlikely the car will last there for as long as it was expected to when it peaked in Mars' orbit.

That's because there is significantly more space matter in the Belt which the car could crash into, and because, as Indiana University Professor William Carroll told Live Science, it will be subjected to harsh radiation on its voyage there.

"All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various types of radiation that you will run into there. As the bonds break, the car can literally fall apart," he said.

Mr Musk has yet to comment further on the mission, nor clarify whether the altered trajectory was accidental or intentional.