Some long number of years ago I attended a Tesla presentation (to the IEEE IIRC) in Palo Alto. At that presentation, which was mostly about the technical aspects of the car, there were test drives of the Tesla Roadster prototype.
Now I’m trying to remember if Elon Musk was there, or not. And I’m wondering if THAT roadster was HIS roadster was THE roadster that went to space?
Despite the hype about “a billion years in orbit”:
According to Musk, the car could stay drifting in space for a billion years. Over time, it is expected that the Roadster will steadily sustain structural damage from solar radiation, cosmic radiation, and micrometeorite impacts. Organic material, i.e. any material with a carbon bond, including carbon fiber parts, will eventually break apart due to radiation. Tires, paint, plastic and leather might last only about a year. The carbon fiber parts will last considerably longer. Eventually only the aluminum frame and glass not shattered by meteors will remain.
As I remember it, the roadster at the IEEE event was cherry red…though some panels were off so you could see the motor and mechanicals… so was that the same one, or not?
Now, keep in mind that Elon is driven by only ONE vision. Colonizing Mars. His “Boring Company” and vacuum trains is about transit between Mars modules and making habitats under the Marian surface via automated boring of large tunnels. The Solar Power company (now folded into Tesla) is about electrical power on Mars. The Tesla is about personal electric vehicles on the surface. SpaceX is about getting to Mars.
So I have to wonder: What is the purpose of the Tesla on orbit? Aside from the marketing hype / show, it also does 2 other things. It tests the SpaceX space suit, that will be needed on Mars. And, more speculative: Think after a couple of years on orbit SpaceX will pay a visit to the car and see what needs improving to survive on Mars? How did the mechanical bits and the battery pack stand up to vacuum and radiation? So that’s my thesis. It’s a long duration exposure test of the surface vehicle design for the Mars colony effort.
I can’t imagine that they would send things to Mars without some kind of test first. It’s a 2 year effort to send replacements or spares so you need things to last at least that long. Some of it can be guessed from known practices on orbit, but how many electric cars have done 2 year runs in space? Um, zero… (Well, they have been in space that long on the Moon, but nobody has gone back to assess them yet and the materials were way different).
Well, that’s my thesis. Go ahead and make fun of me ;-)