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This question already has an answer here:

I'm as smitten as everyone else by Elon’s Starman cruisin' his Tesla through the cosmos. But I'm even more curious why we were limited to a signal transmission architecture with a mere 12-hour life and a non-solar power system.

Since the Roadster is technically a spacecraft, what reasons would Elon Musk and SpaceX’ engineers have for treating it more like space junk? The power needed to transmit a video stream or even periodic images is minimal. What technical issues would compel them to launch a payload with the potential to be a cultural icon and artifact of humankind basically forever into the heavens and not do a better job of designing a system that would send back updates every once in awhile? Especially considering Musk's companies and their expertise in solar power and battery-life longevity?

Couldn't the same communication systems that broadcast images from Curiosity or even Voyager have been bundled underneath the roadster? Would weight deviations from the Tesla’s specs add an unnacceptable degree of uncertainty that could jeopardize the launch, and therefore make it too risky?

A quick edit: The previous articles I've read didn't offer anything other than general PR or journalists' assumptions in terms of the why and why not of my question. As an example, one article I read stated: "so it’s likely that video of its insertion into what Musk said will be a 'billion year elliptical Mars orbit' will be released afterward." But that doesn't address the 12-hour limit I'm wondering about.

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marked as duplicate by uhoh, Nathan Tuggy, Edlothiad, ReactingToAngularVues, Hobbes Feb 9 '18 at 8:08

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    $\begingroup$ SpaceX's development resources are limited. They don't make long-duration autonomous spacecraft; they make launchers. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Feb 9 '18 at 4:46
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    $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove well, at least not until they do $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 9 '18 at 4:57
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    $\begingroup$ The Roadster is a boilerplate spacecraft. The fact that we got any telemetry at all back from it, let alone three high quality video streams, is way above and beyond the usual function of a boilerplate. Kitting it with solar panels and trying to get that to work is not within the scope for a flight of this kind. This is a "See if we can crawl before we walk, run, do the Mamushka" kind of thing. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Feb 9 '18 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ This was a test flight - SpaceX weren't 100% sure the rocket would clear the tower, much less make orbit. It served the same role as the wheel of cheese in the boilerplate Dragon on the COTS-1 flight - some cool bit of PR if the test actually worked, no great loss if it didn't. $\endgroup$ – John Bode Feb 9 '18 at 15:29
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The main issue would not be power, it would be transmitting the signal.

While close to Earth, you can use a low gain omnidirectional antenna; transmitting from Mars requires a high gain directional antenna. Suddenly you need to be able to orient the ship to be able to transmit a pretty boring feed of a mannequin in a car against a black backdrop.

Not to mention you would be blocking a channel for billions of years for no apparent reason.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's not just the antenna which would need to be oriented. The solar panels would also need to be oriented. $\endgroup$ – kasperd Dec 22 '18 at 10:17

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