The roadster is more than likely still in one piece, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN Business, but it’s likely been dinged by some meteoroids during its jaunt through the cosmos.
Over the past four years, the roadster has traveled nearly 2 billion miles and completed about 2.6 loops around the sun, mostly through a barren, empty vacuum, according to the website.
Those aren’t very high probabilities, Hanno Rein, a professor of astrophysics at the Univeristy of Toronto who co-authored the paper, told CNN Business.
The complex and unpredictable realities of traveling through space make it difficult to predict exactly what path the Tesla will take. Rein said that because there isn’t much scientific value in studying the roadster’s trajectory, astronomers aren’t too interested in pointing their high-powered telescopes in its direction to gather more data. The last time the roadster was observed was in March 2018, about a month after it launched, Rein said.
If the car does wind up taking a crash course with Earth, we’ll have to hope it’s ripped into pieces as it slams back into the Earth’s thick atmosphere. (Spaceborne objects running into Earth are actually fairly common, and typically they burn up in the atmosphere during entry. Such hits rarely impact populated areas.)
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the comparative distance between the roadster’s 2020 flyby of Mars and the distance between Earth and the moon.
Elon Musk launched his own Tesla roadster to space four years ago. Where is it now?