Last February, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made headlines in Russia after sending a red Tesla sports car into space on a rocket to Mars.
Now, Russia has shown that its space program can still compete with Musk after scientists launched a cutout of the head of the Roscosmos space agency into the atmosphere in a shiny red car of his own.
Scientists at the Tomsk State University's ToSky project in Siberia announced on Sunday that they had sent Dmitry Rogozin’s eerie effigy into the atmosphere behind the wheel of a bright red Zhiguli toy car.
On June 2, an automatic stratosat lifted the car 150 kilometers into the atmosphere at 80 kilometers per hour. The car drifted through the sky for about 16 hours, the scientists said, before eventually landing 2,000 kilometers away between Mongolia and China.
The launch was the longest stratosat flight in the countries of the former Soviet Union since 2013, the project’s authors said.
Roscosmos has developed an informal rivalry with SpaceX as Russia’s status as a cosmic superpower has faded, with Musk featuring as a central character in the world of Russian memes ever since.
While watching the tiny, smiling Rogozin figure float through the sky, one can’t help but think: How do you like that, Elon Musk?