Stunning footage has captured the cosmic journey of Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster, which blasted off into space aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this month.

The incredible spectacle saw a dummy called Starman strapped behind the wheel of the car leave the planet on the back of the world's most powerful rocket, the MailOnline reports.

They are both now on their way to Mars orbit and then the asteroid belt.

Millions of people worldwide have been following the fate of the craft, including one professional photographer who trained his camera on the night sky to capture footage of it from 500,000 miles away.


Rogelio Bernal Andreo is a Spanish-American astrophotographer best known for his images of deep sky objects.

He used Nasa's online ephemeris calculator to work out where Starman was in the night sky.

Capturing the breathtaking images from his home in San Francisco was no easy task, however.

When he initially attempted to spot the Tesla on February 9, when it was around 500,000 miles from Earth, he failed.

Writing on his website, Andreo said: "Once footage of the car and Starman started to arrive and people wondered if it could be observed from Earth, there was just one thing in my mind: to find the answer to that question and if yes, to try take a picture - better yet, a video - of it.

"Once I had my rig all ready to roll, I pointed my dual telescope setup to the area where the Roadster was supposed to be, and focused.

"Nothing. Not just a doubtful thought 'maybe it's there but I didn't capture', no. There was absolutely nothing there."

Experts say Falcon Heavy's payload could crash back to Earth in the next million years. Picture / AP
Experts say Falcon Heavy's payload could crash back to Earth in the next million years. Picture / AP

That didn't deter him from trying again the next night, when he realised the error in his coordinate calculations.

Andreo added: "When I created the ephemeris from the JPL's website, I did not enter my coordinates! I went with the default, whatever that might be.

"Since the Roadster is still fairly close to us, parallax is significant, meaning, different locations on Earth will see Starman at slightly different coordinates.

"I quickly recalculate, get the new coordinates, go to my images, and thanks to the wide field captured by my telescopes ... boom!

"There it was! Impossible to miss! It had been right there all along; I just never noticed!"

Elon Musk, founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX. Picture / AP
Elon Musk, founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX. Picture / AP

Experts say Falcon Heavy's payload could crash back to Earth in the next million years.

Telescopes have been tracking the progress of the craft since it blasted off and academics have been hard at work calculating its future.

They say that it's next close approach to Earth could be before the century is out, in 2091.

The chance of it hitting Earth is small - around 6 per cent in the next million years - and it would likely to burn up in the atmosphere.

Physicists at the University of Toronto have been trying to establish exactly what will happen to the unusual celestial object, now that it has made its way out into the solar system.

The Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Picture / AP
The Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Picture / AP

They ran simulations 240 times to gain a better understanding of how the Tesla's orbit would evolve over the course of 3.5 million years.

Their calculations suggest that the payload has a 6 per cent probability of the payload colliding with Earth over the next million years.

In addition, they believe there is a 2.5 per cent chance of it hitting Venus in that same timeframe.

The results suggest a slim chance the vehicle will burn up in the sun, but almost no chance it will strike Mars.

If the Tesla does return to Earth it is likely to vaporise in the atmosphere, although there is a slim chance that fragments could make contact with terra firma.

Two booster rockets from the Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy, return for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Picture / AP
Two booster rockets from the Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy, return for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Picture / AP

In a paper published on the pre-print repository, the paper's authors said: "We perform simulations to determine the fate of the object over the next several million years, under the relevant perturbations acting on the orbit.

"The orbital evolution is initially dominated by close encounters with the Earth.

"The repeated encounters lead to a random walk that eventually causes close encounters with other terrestrial planets and the sun.

"We estimate the dynamical lifetime of the Tesla to be a few tens of millions of years.'"

Now that the unconventional payload has reached orbit, Nasa has officially designated it a celestial object.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy successfully launches Elon Musk's Tesla into space. / SpaceX

This means the Roadster and the spacesuit-wearing mannequin have joined the ranks of all other objects being monitored in the solar system, from satellites to planets and asteroids.

Musk's Roadster can now be found through the online Horizons tool from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Lab.

Among the organisations tracking the object is The Virtual Telescope Project, an advanced robotic facility in Italy which offers true real-time observations of the Universe with remotely controlled telescopes.

On February 8, they published footage of the SpaceX payload, captured through the Tenagra III Pearl robotic telescope in Arizona, as it travelled out into space.

Dramatic behind-the-scenes footage also captured the moment when the billionaire SpaceX CEO watched his creation take flight and slip the surly bonds of Earth.

Success was by no means guaranteed for the pioneering mission, as demonstrated by Musk's reaction.

Speaking from the control centre, Musk said: "Holy flying f***, that thing took off."

An extended version of the footage, captured exclusively by National Geographic, will be aired as part of the second season of the documentary series Mars.

The show mixes factual footage detailing the modern space-race to reach the red planet, in which Musk is a key figure, as well as a dramatic portrayal of what the first mission might look like.

Camera crews followed Musk and the SpaceX team to witness first-hand their reactions to the historic launch.

Musk and his team then left the building, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to get a better look at the huge vehicle as it climbed into the upper atmosphere.

'Look at that! That's unreal!' Musk said.

Falcon Heavy took off from the same launch pad used by Nasa for the early Apollo missions.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Kennedy Space Centre saw the blast off of the Apollo 11 craft which took man to the moon.

SpaceX's mission is part of CEO Elon Musk's plans to send man to Mars and to perfect the firm's reusable rocket technology.

The 250-million-mile journey will be taking the payload to a solar orbit with a high point just beyond Mars, as initially predicted by SpaceX.

Earlier reports had claimed it was heading further out into the solar system towards the asteroid belt because one of the boosters of the Falcon Heavy burned for too long.

Data shows that when the Tesla climbed out of the Earth-moon gravity well, the excess velocity provided by the upper stage's final rocket firing enables the car to leave Earth's gravitational clutches and move out into the solar system.

It will pass within about 69 million miles of Mars on June 8 and cross the red planet's orbit in July before reaching its farthest distance from the sun - about 158 million miles (254 million km) - on November 19.

Musk said the 'silly and fun' mission was a success because it will "get people excited around the world", although the rocket's central booster failed to return to Earth as planned.

Falcon Heavy's flight could open up the prospect of far cheaper space launches, making travel to Mars more achievable.

Cosmic radiation will now gradually tear the car to pieces, with the Roadster's seat leather and plastics expected to fall apart in the next year.

That's provided the vehicle avoids collisions with space junk and micrometeorites.

Two of the Falcon Heavy's reusable boosters - both recycled from previous launches - returned minutes after lift-off for on-the-mark touchdowns at Cape Canaveral.

Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the synchronised vertical landings.

However, the craft's third and final booster missed its target - a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean - by about 100m.

According to Musk, it will take roughly six months for the car to complete the more than 321 million km journey to reach the red planet.

Musk assured spectators cameras on the vehicle would provide 'epic views' as it travels to Mars.

Most new rockets carry concrete or steel blocks on test flights to simulate the weight of a real payload, but Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla, has previously said that this method is "extremely boring".

He said SpaceX decided to send Musk's car as it was "something unusual, something that made us feel".

SpaceX spent weeks preparing for the first test launch of its Falcon Heavy, which aims to one day take payloads to the moon or Mars.

It has been hailed by industry experts as a game-changer because of its potential to propel the California-based company to the very forefront of the modern day space race.

The launch followed months of delays and build-up, with Musk frequently posting updates across his social media profiles.