Can a car really survive space?

Can a car really survive space?


– Hi, it’s me, Tim Dodd,
the Everyday Astronaut. So on February 6th, 2018,
two of Elon Musk’s companies combined in the most
bizarre way imaginable. His rocket company, SpaceX,
put one his other companies, Tesla’s cars into space, what? This event clearly goes down as one of the most insanely unusual
events in spaceflight history and has raised a ton of questions. Some about the physics and others about the authenticity in general. Well, today we’re going to
figure out what happens to a car if it’s put in the punishing
environment of space. I mean, come on, plastics in space, tires in space, paint in space? How much of this is real and how much of this is simply impossible? And lastly, say there truly is a midnight cherry red Tesla
in outer space, where is it? Can we see it, and what’s going to happen to it in the future? So car versus outer
space, let’s get started! – [Man] Three, two, one, zero, command– – Wait, wait, wait, I’ve got
a better idea, come with me. (fun electronic music) Oh hi, guys, welcome to
Hawthorne, California, home of SpaceX’s headquarters. I figured if we’re gonna
be talking about putting a Tesla into space on
top of a SpaceX rocket, what better place to do it
than out there in California. So we’re gonna go on a little road trip up to Vandenberg Air Force Base where SpaceX occasionally
launches some rockets, and meanwhile, I’m going to explain why the paint didn’t flake off,
the windshield didn’t crack, the tires didn’t pop, and
the plastic didn’t melt in the vacuum of space. This is gonna be fun one, come,
join me, little adventure. A little something different,
a little rocket road trip. First thing’s first… (“All Systems Normal”
by Everyday Astronaut) Look, I’m Starman! (“All Systems Normal”
by Everyday Astronaut) So one of the biggest
questions we’d ask is why doesn’t the Tesla get ripped apart by the vacuum of space? Well, this one’s actually kinda cool when you think about it. Now I know this kinda seems weird, but there’s no pressure
differential between the inside of the car and the outside of the car. There’s no sealed containers, and even if that convertible
or a normal car like this, it’s not gonna be perfectly air tight so the air would slowly leak out, and it would eventually
equalize until there’s no air in or out of anything
and there’s just no air and therefore no vacuum. There’s no pressure differential,
that’s the key thing here. Pressure differential, take
a bag of chips for example. What would happen if you put
these inside a vacuum chamber? Well, in order to find out, I’m here at the University of Northern
Iowas Physics department. Now, you might be saying, “Wait a second, I thought we were “in California on a road trip. “What are you doing in
your hometown in Iowa?” Well, that may or may not be because I lost an entire memory card, and now we’re going to re-shoot
random bits of this video with a 2011 Hyundai Elantra
standing in for the Tesla. And it’s really, really hot
out so I’m just going to wear a space suit t-shirt sometimes
instead of a space suit. Alright, so what I have
here is a bell jar, which is basically, think of
it like a mini vacuum chamber. So we can actually set it
down on this tabletop here, and we can actually suck
the air right out of it. So let’s go ahead and do that here. I’m just gonna do this,
and as you can see now, I can easily lift this back up because the air inside the jar and the air outside the jar is the same. So I’m going to go ahead– Oh, hi, wow, there’s already
some vacuum in the lines. So I’m gonna go ahead and
turn on the vacuum pump. Oop, there we go, I saw it
pop right there at the top, and now, there is no difference between the amount of pressure
inside the bag of chips and the amount of pressure
outside the bag of chips because there’s now a little
hole in the top of the bag. And I can see that right away, so even as the air
actually gets sucked out of this whole thing,
the entire bag of chips is actually starting
to become in a vacuum. There’s no air, and you’d
think this vacuum would just be ripping this thing apart,
but in real life now, it’s just gonna stay like this. And this is now actually
basically what it’d be like in the vacuum of space. There’s no air inside
the bag of the chips. There’s no air outside the bag of chips. It’s just kinda hanging
out, and it’ll do that. And as a matter of fact, we
can actually tell that we’re in a vacuum now because I
can no longer lift this lid. Instead, I lift the whole table
because there is that big of a pressure difference between
the inside of the bell jar and the outside of the bell jar. But here’s what we’re gonna
do, we’re gonna turn this off. We’re gonna turn off the vacuum pump, and I’m going to let the
air back into the jar. Let’s see what happens. (“All Systems Normal”
by Everyday Astronaut) Again, you saw it initially, there was a big pressure differential. It changed and compressed
the bag, and then, as the air equalizes, the bag of chips just kinda goes back to its normal shape. So nothing too exciting
really, it’s a lot more boring than I actually thought it would be, which is kind of a good thing. It shows how every day objects
actually handle a vacuum. They aren’t nearly as scary or terrifying as I think we picture in our heads. So watch, now, the pressure differential– There is no difference between
the atmospheric pressures, and now, we can lift this bag up. And now you see, wah-la, we
have a normal bag of chips that’s probably absolutely delicious. Yeah, not too scary,
not too crazy, actually. That was pretty mild
mannered, hm, what’s next? Why didn’t the tires on that Tesla pop once they got into the vacuum of space? If only there was another vehicle, which hand tires and went to space… Oh yeah, the space shuttle,
I remember that thing. Now, these things flew on 134 missions, and none them popped, why is that? Well, air at sea level is 14.7 PSI. Air in space is zero so the
difference is only 14.7 PSI. So when you’re talking
about a tire that’s inflated to 340 PSI, we’re only talking about a five percent
difference from sea level to the vacuum of space,
that’s not very much. And if only there was some kind
of way to lower the pressure in a tire to keep it within
its operational range once it gets into the vacuum of space. I’m sure the guys at SpaceX
didn’t think about this one. Okay, so next, what about the paint? Why didn’t the paint on that Tesla, just like the paint on this Tesla, get ripped off as soon
as it got into space? Well, as we now know, there
is no pressure difference between the car and space to
rip the paint off the car, like we may have thought. That being said, the paint will probably, eventually come off, but not
due to the vacuum of space, but due to a few other things. Out-gassing, radiation
and micro meteorites are eventually going to take their toll. Alright, so first off, out-gassing is when air or water
molecules are trapped inside, well, I guess, anything,
it could be plastic, paint, leather, whatever, there’s going to be a little bit of air trapped in that. And especially with paint, it’s gonna be actually sealed inside it, but eventually it will want to come out. As a matter of fact, the
first three dragon capsules to visit the International Space Station were strangely missing a SpaceX logo. This is because in typical SpaceX fashion, they wanted to use a cheaper,
more off the shelf paint for the logo, and it hadn’t
been approved by NASA to be anywhere near the
International Space Station. It wasn’t until CRS-3 that we
finally saw the SpaceX logo on the Dragon capsule, but this is talking about vehicles that will be visiting the International Space
Station for months, where peoples’ lives are at stake, so NASA takes visiting
vehicle’s safety very seriously. Since the roadsters only
job was to look cool, there was no need to worry about the long term out-gassing effects of the paint because who cares? Radiation on the other hand is a big deal. Specially, stellar radiation, which will eventually
break up the carbon bonds of anything that’s organic. So things like leather, the
plastic in the steering wheel, or the rubber tires, which
will eventually be kind of discolored, flake away, or
even splinter off into space. Radiation in deep space is a lot harsher than the radiation in low Earth orbit, like say on the
International Space Station, which is within the Earth’s
protective magnetosphere. Also, there’s a few good reasons why the International Space Station
isn’t made out of plastic, or leather, and this is
just one of those reasons. Space X even ended up
sending the upper stage and the Tesla roadster through
the most punishing portions of the Van Allen radiation belts. They did this to ensure that even in those really tough
conditions, the flight computers and all of the components would last and survive even in the
harshest conditions. So it’s trial by fire,
or, I guess, radiation. So, had some of the sub-systems
failed on the upper stage, unfortunately, it would’ve been stuck in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth, but part of me kind of
wishes that was the case. (dirt flying) We need to talk about micro meteorites. These are basically
just little baby meteors that are gonna be blasting
the car for millions of years, eventually, breaking the glass
and tearing a lot of it off, making the car look a
lot less recognizable. Eventually, only the
hardest parts will be left, like the aluminum and some
of that other hard metals, but that’s over millions of years. Most spacecraft have
some kind of protection against micro meteorites,
like a Kevlar blanket or something, but also, most
spacecraft are only meant to last maybe several decades at most. So I wonder what the
Tesla’s gonna look like after millions of years. Wonder if I’ll be around to see that? Alright, so what about the plastic? Why didn’t the plastic
all over the dashboard and inside the car, why
didn’t all that melt in space? I mean, it’s exposed right to
the sun, why didn’t it melt? Well, this one’s actually,
we could reverse this. Why would it melt in space? Space is really cold, it’s
minus 270 degrees Celsius, which is minus 454 Fahrenheit. So an object in space will get
hit by the heat of the sun, but it also radiates heat away in what’s called a radiative equilibrium. So this is because the object is actually going to be taking in
heat, but it’s also going to be giving off heat
into the vacuum of space. And again, there’s no
air molecules around it to keep that heat
trapped, and then to keep warming the thing up, the
material up, and therefore, getting hotter and hotter. It just kinda stays at an equilibrium. (“Astronaut Beach House”
by Everyday Astronaut) Now, I hear what you’re saying,
but the Tesla’s up in space, and space is closer to the
sun so it must be hotter than down here on Earth, like when you’re at the California beaches
and you accidentally leave something that could melt
inside your Tesla, right? Well, we can answer this in two ways. It’s only closer to the sun
when it’s closer to the sun. So an object that’s in
low Earth orbit, at most, is only 400 kilometers out
of 150 million kilometers closer to the sun, or, for those of us who are metrically impaired, that’s 250 miles out of 93 million miles, so it’s really not any closer at all. The other answer is it’s
actually getting further away from the sun as we speak. It’s on a highly elliptical
orbit around the sun, and it’s furthest point is
actually two and a half times further away from the
sun than the Earth is. Thanks to the square inverse law, when the roadster’s at its furthest point, or 2.65 AU away from the
sun, it will only receive about 15 percent of the amount of energy that that Tesla will
receive at its lowest point in its orbit around the
sun, which is one AU. So, in other words, the same orbit as the Earth is around the sun. So what is the current
status on the roadster? Where is it in space, can we see it? Well, there is one amazing website that helps answer these
questions and a lot more. Whereisroadster.com, this is so cool. It shows, in real time,
where the roadster is, how far its traveled, what
it’s overall fuel economy is, which is hilarious since it’s
obviously done expending fuel, and even how big of a telescope
you’d need here on Earth in order to have enough resolution to see the upper stage and the roadster. So yeah, you could see it
here from Earth right now, but you’d need a telescope
that’s 2,600 meters or 8,500 feet wide, but it
will come pretty close to Earth in 2091, coming within only a couple hundred thousand kilometers. So get your telescopes
and maybe a rocket ready. Who’s with me, I just love the big, giant touchscreen in this Tesla. Oh, look, we’re getting really close to Vandenberg Air Force Base! Definitely, definitely, definitely Vandenberg
Air Force Base, for sure. Alright, I’m an idiot,
so this all the closer I could actually get
to SpaceX’s launchpad, and I drove all the way
out here to Vandenberg, thinking I had this really
cool shot in my head where you can see the launch
pad in the background, and you can actually but
I just got in trouble with the police because
you can’t take photos anywhere near the gate, whoops. But at least there’s good
excuse to get my hands on a model three for the week, right? Okay, so this whole thing
was a massive, massive fail on my end, but I did the
best I could to salvage it. But at least Starman’s
roadster wasn’t a fail. So before we wrap up, let’s
make sure and reiterate that. To all those naysayers who made
a really long list of things that were impossible about a car in space, do you really think
they weren’t gonna think about the center of mass or
think about the out-gassing of the paint or the tire
pressure or the other materials and so on and so on and so
on before they put it on top of their most high stakes and
public rocket launch ever? Come on, they just designed
the most advanced rocket in the world, I’m sure
they thought of everything. That being said, what
other questions do you have about Starman’s roadster? What questions do you
have about Falcon Heavy or SpaceX in general? Let me know your thoughts and upcoming video suggestions
in the comments below. And thanks for playing along with me, and I’m sorry that I had such
a massive fail on my end. If this happens to be your
first video you’ve ever seen of mine, please check
out some of my other ones where I don’t fail nearly as often. I promise it’s not all the time. Okay, but despite all the antics, I still hope you learned
a lot and had some fun. I sure had fun when I got to drive that Tesla model three for a week. You’ve probably noticed I
don’t do many sponsored videos, and neither does Turo, the company that I rented model three through. Turo is a way to rent other people’s cars instead of the same boring
cars at the airport. So the next time you want
to rent a really cool car on your next trip, Tesla,
be sure and check out Turo. Click the link here or
in the description below for 25 dollars off your first rental! Thank you, Turo, that was amazing! I owe a huge thanks to
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make it into a summer playlist for free at
soundcloud.com/everydayastronaut. Thanks everybody, that does it for me. I’m Tim Dodd, the every day astronaut, bringing space down to
Earth for every day people. (chill atmospheric music)