Starman — the dummy riding a cherry-red Tesla Roadster through space — has made his closest approach ever to Mars.
That electric convertible with its mannequin passenger bolted to the top of a Falcon Heavy rocket as a stunt during the SpaceX rocket’s first test launch Feb, 6, 2018. (It’s common for test launches to include heavy payloads, but they’re usually more boring than cherry-red sportscars.) Two years later, the Falcon Heavy upper stage and the vehicle at its tip are making their second trip around the sun. Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist who tracks space objects as a side project, found that Starman passed 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometers) from Mars at 2:25 a.m. EDT Oct. 7. That’s about 19 times the distance from Earth to the moon, and 35 times closer than anyone on Earth has gotten to Mars.
(The closest recent approach between the two planets was 34.8 million miles (56 million km) in 2003, according to World Atlas, though the planets are often hundreds of millions of miles apart.)