TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Tesla roadster launched into space more than two years ago made its closest approach to Mars on Wednesday morning.
The bright red car was launched in February 2018 with a mannequin named Starman behind the wheel. It was launched as a test payload during the maiden mission of Space-X’s Falcon Heavy Rocket.
While Starman is not on a scientific mission, Director of the Tyler Junior College Space and Science Center Beau Hartweg tells us it provides a fun and unique way to talk about Mars and the rest of our solar system.
He says interest in Mars comes from its proximity to Earth and from the fact some scientists believe life once existed on the red planet.
“Mars is a really interesting planet for several different reasons. One is its one of our neighbors so easier to get to compared to other planets,” Hartweg said. “There is also signs that there could have potentially been life. Mars had volcanoes. We think it had water at one point. We’ve detected water underneath the surface and NASA scientist always like to say follow the water. Everywhere we found water on earth, we’ve found signs of life. We think, we’re not 100 percent sure, but that could mean that there are signs of life on other places like Mars. We’re real curious. It just helps us understand the formation of our solar system and even our planet here on earth by studying other planets.”
Hartweg says Mars made one of its closest approaches to Earth yesterday when it was about 38 million miles away. He said Mars is usually about 40 million miles from Earth. Mars will be visible about 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 7, and will look like a bright red star near the moon, according to Hartweg
Hartweg says manned missions to Mars are still several years away.