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Turns out that Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, which was launched on February 6, 2018, has now reached the orbit of Mars.

The car was originally placed on an orbit that would take it beyond the orbit of Mars, to a distance of about 1.6 times the Earth-Sun distance of about 250 million kilometres from the Sun, known as aphelion. It will take the car about 1.5 years to complete a full orbit of the Sun on each orbit.

In a short post on Twitter, SpaceX revealed that the car is now beyond the orbit of Mars, although it won't pass close to the planet itself. "Next stop, the restaurant at the end of the universe," they said, a reference to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sequel. (Musk clearly enjoys the series, the dashboard of the Tesla includes a sign with the words "Don't Panic", the very words printed on the cover of the eponymous "guide").

Elon Musk has originally said that the car would survive for a billion years in space, but one study found that the car would come within a few hundred thousand kilometres of our planet in 2091, with a 6% chance of hitting our planet in 1 million years – although it would just burn up in the atmosphere. It had a 2.5 per cent chance of hitting Venus in the same period. The car itself is likely to be almost unrecognizable. Radiation is expected to eat away at it, which will rapidly reduce the car to bits.

Now the car, or what is left of it, is about to begin its return to Earth. 

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