Watching the footage of Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster floating in Earth's orbit, you might be a bit unnerved by the 'Don't Panic' message fixed to the vehicle's dashboard. Is there something we should be panicking about? It turns out there is.
Yesterday, SpaceX's innovative Falcon Heavy rocket successfully shot the roadster into space, but there's a hitch - it's no longer going in the direction it should be because it went so well.
The car was only planned to be shot into the orbit of Mars after a six-hour coast on the upper part of the rocket. However, the final burn of the rocket has proved so powerful the car's heading closer to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
"Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt," Musk wrote on Twitter.
Musk originally claimed the car would continue road-tripping through space for millions of years, perhaps up to a billion years - that's a long time to be in the cold of space.
However, scientists aren't yet sure whether the car's new trajectory will change things, and there's a chance that the new orbital path could end the mission within decades.
The message in the middle of the dashboard of the Tesla Roadster, which has turned out to be incredibly accurate, has been perplexing visitors to SpaceX's live stream of the car.
It turns out that the message is making a sly reference to Douglas Adams' comedy sci-fi series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Add that to the name of the car's 'driver', 'Starman' - that's a David Bowie nod, if you didn't know.
CHECK OUT ELON MUSK'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY:
Elon has had a long relationship with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, having first read the 'trilogy in five parts' when he was a teenager living in South Africa. The fictional guide itself has 'Don't Panic' emblazoned on its cover.
Speaking with Fresh Dialogues in 2013, the billionaire inventor said the series was probably his favourite piece of sci-fi. High praise from a man who just sent an electric car into space.
"I read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is quite positive, I think, and it highlighted an important point - which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer," Musk said.
"And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. So, to the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask.
"Then whatever the question is that most approximates: what's the meaning of life? That's the question we can ultimately get closer to understanding."
Given how wildly the car has overshot, 'Don't Panic' is a great maxim to follow. Heading to the asteroid belt might be worrying Starman but at least it will be fun for the rest of us.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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