During its successful Feb. 6 liftoff, as you probably recall, the Heavy carried aloft a red Tesla Roadster that belonged to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. A mannequin dubbed Starman sat in the driver's seat.
The Roadster lingered in orbit for a few hours, allowing cameras on the car to beam home some amazing footage of Starman with the sunlit Earth over the mannequin's shoulder. And a few telescopes on the ground even managed to track down the car and driver after the rocket's upper-stage engine lit up and took Starman out into the depths of space. [In Photos: SpaceX's 1st Falcon Heavy Rocket Test Launch Success!]
Indeed, the Tesla was still visible as a bright, moving dot (to the telescopes, that is) when the car was 500,000 miles (800,000 kilometers) from Earth.
Space.com senior producer Steve Spaleta put all that footage together to make the new 80-second video, which also features some pulse-pounding music by guitar legend Joe Satriani.
Starman and the Tesla are out of sight now, however. The Heavy slung them onto an elliptical solar orbit that will take the duo all the way out past Mars at their most distant point. The car and driver will make repeated passes near Earth — but the next relatively close one won't come until 2091, at a distance of a few hundred thousand kilometers, according to a new study that modeled the Tesla's orbital evolution over the next few million years.
In that study, the researchers also determined that Starman has a 6 percent chance of slamming into Earth in the next 1 million years and a 2.5 percent chance of hitting Venus during that same stretch. The dummy's fate is to become a blur of molecules in the atmosphere of one of these worlds: The Tesla will barrel into either Earth or Venus sometime during the next few tens of millions of years, study team members said.