SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars

It takes a beat or two for the brain to compute. The image is startling, incongruous, barmy. A car floats in space. At the wheel is a spacesuit, seatbelt on. Earth hangs behind it. The two objects don’t work together. The image jars like bad Photoshop. But it is real.

The photograph was beamed down to Earth courtesy of Elon Musk’s ego, bravado and taste for the absurd. It is human folly and genius rolled into one, a picture that sums up 2018 so far. Life on Earth feels precarious, so we look to the stars.

So how did we get here: the heavens navigated by a dummy astronaut in an electric car, with a handy note for aliens – “Made on Earth by humans” – imprinted on the circuit board?

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