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Elon Musk’s Tesla, Starman fly past Mars 2 years after SpaceX launch

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  • In February 2018, SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster owned by the company’s founder, Elon Musk, into deep space.
  • The electric vehicle, which has a spacesuit-clad “Starman” dummy in the driver’s seat, just made its first flyby of Mars.
  • To Starman, Mars would have appeared to be about one-tenth the size of the moon as seen from Earth, the astronomer Jonathan McDowell said.
  • The vehicle and its unlikely passenger, launched on the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket, may travel for millions of years before crashing, most likely back into Earth.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An electric car that Elon Musk rocketed into space more than two years ago just flew past Mars for the first time.

SpaceX, the rocket company Musk founded, launched his old Tesla Roadster aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018 with a spacesuit-wearing dummy named “Starman” at the wheel.

The car also carried a Hot Wheels model of itself with a miniature Starman inside. In storage, it holds a copy of the sci-fi novels “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, along with a towel and a sign that says “Don’t Panic.” The car’s speakers even blasted the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie after launch.

Since then, the rocket’s second stage has glided through space with no fuel to propel it, with Musk’s old red car perched on top of it.

“It’s a rocket stage with a hood ornament,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who independently calculated the Tesla’s close Mars pass, told Business Insider.

spacex falcon heavy launch

An illustration of Musk’s Tesla atop the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket.


SpaceX/YouTube



The Tesla was supposed to slip into a circular orbit between Mars and the sun. But the mission

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Former NASA astronaut who helped build new Boeing spacecraft won’t fly on first mission

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Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson says he no longer plans to command the first-ever crewed mission of the Boeing Starliner, the spacecraft he’s spent the last decade helping to build.



a man wearing sunglasses: Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson looks on during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. They will be part of the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft some time next year.


© Terry Renna/AP
Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson looks on during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. They will be part of the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft some time next year.

NASA and Boeing made the announcement Wednesday morning, saying Ferguson made the decision for “personal reasons.” Ferguson said in a follow-up tweet that he plans to prioritize his family, and he “made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing.”

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He did not provide further details.

Ferguson, an engineer and veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, left the NASA astronaut corps in 2011 to help Boeing design and build a next-generation spacecraft that could take over the task of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In 2018, Boeing announced Ferguson would command the Starliner’s first-ever crewed test flight, and he was expected to become the first-ever NASA astronaut to travel to space after retiring from NASA. He was also seen as the first corporate astronaut — his flight suit bares a Boeing logo where others have the NASA emblem.

The astronauts who traveled on SpaceX’s first-ever crewed mission in May, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, were both active members of the NASA astronaut corps, not SpaceX employee.

Ferguson was supposed to be the only Boeing employee onboard the Starliner test flight, and he was to be joined by two NASA astronauts inside the capsule on its maiden flight.

But now the flight will be all NASA astronauts.

NASA’s Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who’s served two prior stints on the International Space Station,