The world’s first space sports car is cruising towards the Asteroid Belt, well beyond its intended destination.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk’s rocketing Tesla Roadster was the unorthodox cargo aboard his company’s brand new Falcon Heavy rocket during a test flight on Tuesday.
With the successful launch, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket flying today.
Mr Musk’s cherry red electric convertible also became the fastest car ever, hurtling off the planet and zooming away on its intended route to Mars.
The original plan was to come close to the red planet but hopefully not nicking it.
But late on Tuesday (local time), Mr Musk confirmed the final firing of the rocket’s upper stage put his car on a more distant trajectory than anticipated.
“Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt,” Mr Musk said on Twitter.
The Roadster’s new orbit now stretches from Earth on one end, all the way to the neighbourhood of Ceres — in the Asteroid Belt — on the other.
If it survives the swarming asteroid belt, the car and its mannequin occupant “Starman” are expected to continue orbiting for millions, if not billions, of years.
Images of the exposed Roadster and Starman – named after the David Bowie song – against the backdrop of Earth burned up the internet long after Tuesday’s launch.
“I think it looks so ridiculous and impossible. You can tell it’s real because it looks so fake, honestly,” Mr Musk said on Tuesday night.
It’s still tripping me out.”
Like so many others, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold was awe-struck by the livestreaming of “Starman” and his ride.
Mr Arnold is preparing for his own ride to the International Space Station next month.
“Perfect day for a cruise in a ragtop,” he tweeted, offering congratulations to SpaceX.
“Awesome! At this speed, two hands on the steering wheel please #Starman.”
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step onto the moon, also celebrated after watching the rocket soar, “from my favorite launch pad”.
The Heavy lifted off from the same spot as NASA’s now-retired but more powerful Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttles.
The Heavy is a combo of three Falcon 9s, that SpaceX uses to ship space station supplies and launch satellites for its customers.
Mars is driving all of Mr Musk’s space efforts.
Mr Musk said he did not plan to fly people on the Heavy – that will mainly be used to launch supersize satellites.
But he’s accelerating development of an even bigger rocket for deep-space crews – “a beast”.
His overriding goal is to establish a city on Mars, sending people there in a flotilla of SpaceX spaceships launched by colossal SpaceX rockets.
Before dashing off to the red planet, Mr Musk said he would want to try out this spaceship in orbit around Earth – possibly in three to four years with the supersize rocket – and then the moon.