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Elon Musk's space-faring red Tesla just did a flyby of Mars

By Jeff Spry

The territory around Mars just got infinitely cooler as SpaceX's "Starman," the spacesuit-sporting mannequin behind the wheel of Elon Musk's solar-system-traveling Tesla Roadster, just made his first intimate flyby of the Red Planet this week, coming within 5 million miles of the ruddy-colored surface.

Starman's Tesla was secured to the second stage of the Falcon Heavy Rocket when it first blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center's historic Pad 39A over two years ago to deafening cheers and applause. Now the artificial motorist appears confidently in control as his four-wheeled spaceship swings around our neighboring planet, an important event on its odd odyssey.

SpaceX tweeted out this memorable moment as the cherry-red Tesla roadster made its close Mars approach while on an elliptical orbit around the Sun.

"It's a long distance," Jonathan Dowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN. "Mars would appear about 1/10 the diameter of the Moon, so small but not a point. It will pass about 5 million km from Earth in the year 2047. Not close enough to see it as a resolved object."

According to the official website, the interplanetary vehicle has completed 1.7507 orbits around the Sun since being launched back in February 2018 on the premiere flight of SpaceX's thundering Falcon Heavy rocket.

Musk's intrepid $100,000 car is currently more than 37 million miles from Earth and has ventured almost 1.3 billion miles since leaving our world. It will remain in a looping trajectory around the Sun between Earth and Mars for the next hundreds of millions of years, with only a 6% chance of crashing back on Earth. Comforting calculations indeed!