When the Falcon Heavy Tesla car reaches orbit around Mars would you be able to hear David Bowie playing on the car stereo?

(Assuming you could sit in the car during its orbit)

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    $\begingroup$ Possibly, if the entertainment system has a Bluetooth interface and you manage to pair it with a headset while you are wearing a space suit. :-) $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:16
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    $\begingroup$ The car isn't going to orbit around Mars. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you mean if the radio signal is broadcast from earth? $\endgroup$
    – user10509
    Feb 7, 2018 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JanDoggen but he didn't say "radio" -- there's plenty of other audiio sources possible. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2018 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft the title does say "radio", though the question says "stereo". $\endgroup$
    – Kat
    Feb 7, 2018 at 23:24

2 Answers 2



Sound requires a medium to travel through - like air or water. In space, there is no air (or other medium that sound could propagate through). Even if you could power the stereo somehow, you would not be able to generate sound with its speakers.

Also, it will not reach Mars orbit, it is on a free trajectory through the asteroid belt, almost to the same height as Ceres.

  • $\begingroup$ Was there any point in playing the radio then? $\endgroup$
    – eeijlar
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ If you mean the sound heard on the live stream, that was played on the ground and overlayed on the stream. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @eeijlar The point was two-fold: 1) just for fun... because could be done. Rocket scientists and engineers like to have a bit of fun. 2) Publicity. The real technical achievements of the Falcon Heavy — 64 tonnes to low earth orbit, triple core landing, propellant cross-feed — are amazing on their own. but they not generate any buzz or "Wow!" feeling for anyone except for hard core space nerds. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ But everyone — including the person on the street — can relate to a car, in space, playing Space Oddity... that generates a lot of attention and gets even the average Jack & Jill to realise that this is a friggin' cool event that just took place. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ There would be some audio transferred through the chassis to the seat and it's occupant, but it wouldn't be great $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Feb 7, 2018 at 10:45

Yes, if you placed your helmet on the door frame (assuming the loudspeaker is placed in the door) and made sufficient contact to hear contact noise. The loudspeaker vibrates the whole door.

This assumes the stereo is still playing after all that time. The stereo (assuming maximum volume and 2x20 W of power draw) uses 1 kWh/day, so after 53 days it'll have drained the main battery. More likely, the stereo is connected to a separate 12V car battery with a capacity of less than 1 kWh, which will be empty in a day or so.

According to SpaceX, the Roadster hasn't been modified beyond the minimum needed to fit it on the payload adapter. That means both batteries are in place.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You really think they put a heavyweight battery of any type into the payload, rather than drawing off main system power? (answer: no). And the thought of a 12V car battery surviving the first 1 second of launch is laughable. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2018 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft Do we know if the main battery is in the car? All that lithium could have been recycled on earth. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2018 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ We're talking about a rocket that can launch 16 tons to Mars. It's not going to notice whether the car has its main battery installed or not. A lead-acid battery has to withstand multiple-G shocks every day for 6 years (speed humps, unpaved roads, potholes). $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Feb 7, 2018 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft: From what I understand, the functional purpose of the Tesla is to serve as ballast. If some mass of batteries were removed for reasons other than reaching target weight (e.g. to avoid any fire hazards they might pose) they would have needed to be replaced with a comparable mass of something else. $\endgroup$
    – supercat
    Feb 7, 2018 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ There are more flammable things in the rocket than the lithium ion batteries. I don’t see why they would have removed them. $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Feb 7, 2018 at 21:22

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