A Tesla launched into space more than two years ago has made its first approach of Mars.
SpaceX sent the Tesla Roadster and its mannequin driver ‘Starman’ into space in February 2018 as a dummy payload on the first launch of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket.
Elon Musk, who heads both SpaceX and Tesla, said at the time that the stunt was not simply a demonstration of the rocket’s power.
“Life cannot just be about solving one sad problem after another,” he said.
“There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity. That is why we did it.”
Since leaving Earth, the electric car has been on an elliptical orbit of the Sun that it completes every 557 days.
Next month, the vehicle’s journey will see it perform a “drive-by” of Earth, passing within 32 million miles of our planet.
“Starman, last seen leaving Earth, made its first close approach with Mars today – within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the Red Planet,” SpaceX tweeted.
The vehicle has already made 1.75 orbits of the Sun, according to a website tracking the progress of the vehicle, and is currently around 37 million miles from Earth.
Travelling at a speed of around 55,000mph, the website notes: “The car has exceeded its 36,000 mile warranty 36,128 times while driving around the Sun.”
Orbit modelling suggests the Tesla will eventually burn up in the atmosphere of either Earth or Venus, though this is unlikely to happen within the next 10 million years.