Scientists are somewhat concerned that the cherry-red sports car Elon Musk sent into space could contaminate Mars.
As we reported recently, people got very upset about SpaceX founder Elon Musk sending a Tesla Roadster into space for a lot of not very well thought out reasons. But scientists may have one legitimate reason for being concerned about the cherry-red sports car floating around in space, and that is because the car runs the risk of contaminating Mars at some point.
When SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket, a rocket that could one day carry man to Mars, it needed a dummy payload to simulate the weight it would be carrying on such a mission. So rather than choose some boring weight, Musk decided to have some fun and use a Tesla Roadster with a mannequin at the driver’s wheel. Now, Starman is floating in the emptiness of space, with a copy of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” at his side.
But Purdue University scientists argue that this car could present a “biothreat” to Mars. Contamination is a major scientific concern because it could introduce bacteria from Earth to the environment and thus give a false positive on alien life on the Red Planet, for example. Or, Earth’s bacteria could compete with and destroy existing life on the Red Planet. That is why NASA has very strict guidelines when it comes to sterilizing equipment meant for things like the Mars Curiosity rover, but not for things simply meant for orbit.
But since researchers are concerned that the Roadster could make its way to Mars, there is some concern in scientific circles.
“If there is an indigenous Mars biota, it’s at risk of being contaminated by terrestrial life,” said Jay Melosh, a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University. “Would Earth’s organisms be better adapted, take over Mars and contaminate it so we don’t know what indigenous Mars was like, or would they be not as well adapted as the Martian organisms? We don’t know.”