Humanity has a few questions that have been plaguing us since the dawn of time: What is the meaning of life? Do we have free will? If an eccentric tech mogul launches an electric roadster into space, what is the likelihood it falls back down to earth or collides with anything else on its intergalactic road trip?
Luckily, three University of Toronto researchers have addressed at least one of those questions with a new study. Titled “The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets,” this study looks at how likely it is that the recently-launched-into-space Tesla Roadster will collide with an object over the next millions of years.
Authors Hanno Rein, Daniel Tamayo and David Vokrouhlicky have found that it may not even take millions of years for humanity to have a close call with the intergalactic convertible.
“The Tesla is currently on an Earth and Mars crossing orbit,” reads the study. “Its first close encounter that may come within a lunar distance of the Earth will occur in 2091.”
That means it is entirely possible that in 73 years, we may be able to whip out a telescope and tell our grandchildren “take a look at that classic car!”
That may be the only time for a little while after that though—the study goes on to state that after 2091, the Tesla Roadster will not come in close contact with earth for another 1000 years.
View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
Some other key findings from the study look at how long the Tesla will last in space and how likely it is in general to collide with either earth or Venus. In terms of the livelihood of the Roadster and how long it will orbit around the solar system, the researchers believe it will last a few tens of millions of years. There is no word on whether it will still be under warranty though.
When it comes to how likely it is to hit us or Venus, the researchers found that there is a six per cent chance the Roadster will collide with earth and a 2.5 per cent chance it will hit Venus—over the next one million years, that is.
SpaceX launched the Tesla Roadster—fully equipped with a dummy in a spacesuit, of course—on February 6 with the Falcon Heavy. It is now on its way to float around the sun on an elliptical Mars-crossing orbit roughly 250 million miles away, and is not expected to make any massive course deviations.
The paper was published on arXiv, which means it has not yet been peer-reviewed, but for now it merely serves as an interesting take on what has become a cultural phenomenon.
Oh, and in case you were wondering if it will be drivable if it comes back down to earth? It’s possible, but it’s more likely that radiation and high-energy particles will render the computerized parts and sensitive battery unusable.