What will happen to Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in space?

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SpaceX, the galactic exploration company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has launched a rocket towards Mars carrying an interesting payload. The 'Falcon Heavy' rocket was loaded down with a cargo consisting of Musk's own Tesla Roadster, making it the first production car ever launched into space.

With David Bowie's Space Oddity playing on the stereo and a dummy – named 'Starman' – in the passenger seat, Musk's Roadster actually overshot its original destination of Mars and is now headed to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But what do the coming weeks and months have in store for the Lotus Elise-based electric car?


See also: Tesla unveils new Roadster in surprise ceremony

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First, the vacuum of space will have already affected some of the car's systems. Tyres will have deflated or burst, and airbags will have gone off unless they were already removed or deactivated.

The biggest problem the Tesla faces is cosmic radiation. Our atmosphere protects us from this, but the Tesla will be fully exposed, and according to molecular expert William Carroll will not last a year in the tough conditions.

He said: "All the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there.

"Those materials are largely made up of carbon-carbon bonds and carbon-hydrogen bonds. Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn't give them a year."

Eventually, the Tesla will be reduced to just its inorganic parts. However, with no outside influence, it's likely to remain at least outwardly presentable for a lot longer. Tesla fan blog Teslarati reports "If an aspiring car collector tried to recover the eccentric and historic trophy from space in several centuries/millennia, Roadster would very likely fall to pieces or even crumble to dust when moved or placed in an environment with any significant gravity."