If you developed a soft spot for Starman following his spectacular launch aboard SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket a week ago, then Valentine’s Day must seem like just about the worst day possible to bid farewell to your favorite “astronaut.”
But on February 14, the Starman and his Tesla Roadster will finally fade from the view of many telescopes as they drift ever deeper into space.
Don’t have any star-gazing kit of your own? Well, the good news is that thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project, you can still wave Starman off on his adventure, one that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes will last “a billion years,” but which in reality could last hardly any time at all if the car crashes into some space rock or succumbs to radiation.
Starting at 7:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the Virtual Telescope Project is planning to live-stream the cherry-red Roadster one final time. Described as “a unique opportunity,” a telescope will show the final moments as Starman drifts into darkness.
The Project, which started in 2006, offers amateur and professional astronomers online access to real, robotic telescopes and offers a range of services for the international community. With the help of Tenagra Observatories in Arizona, it’s been tracking the Tesla Roadster and Starman since February 6, when the Falcon Heavy successfully completed its first-ever launch.
But if you tune in early Wednesday, don’t expect to see a close-up of Starman. The car is just over a million miles away from Earth and currently appears only as a faint dot among a sea of stars. The final live-stream is a chance to say goodbye as it enters what will likely be an orbit around the sun.
The wacky payload was an attempt by Elon Musk to make space “fun” and get people interested and inspired by deep space projects. This is the guy that wants to build a city on Mars, don’t forget.
Oh, and for anyone new to this story — and sorry to break this to anybody who’s formed a deep emotional bond with Starman in the past week — we should just state that he (or more accurately, “it”) is in fact a spacesuit-clad mannequin and not a real person … well, as far as we know.