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SPACE—the final frontier. Perhaps that’s too cliché a tagline for the likes of Elon Musk, but we will struggle on regardless. By this point in March, pretty much everyone has heard of the launch of a Tesla Roadster into space by private rocket firm SpaceX, and if you haven’t, then let me be the first to welcome you to the world of modern media.


Though clearly a test for SpaceX and their new Heavy Load rockets, it is almost indisputable that this launch, which occurred on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 doubles as a massive publicity stunt. Originally heralded as a great success for falling into the Earth’s orbit, it is unsurprising that Musk’s dream to have a manned mission to Mars within a decade is receiving so much support. This support has made Musk’s reputation porcelain and has distinguished SpaceX as a leader of the modern space race.

However, Musk’s reputation is not quite as clean as it once was. After receiving immense backlash from NASA and the scientific community as a whole, SpaceX must run damage control over one critical mistake. A general rule for space travel, for those that do not frequently fly the stars, concerns the sterilization of all equipment intending to land whilst in space. This little detail has created a world of trouble for the pioneering rocket firm as the Roadster, which hurtles towards Mars even now, is likely infected with microbes from Earth. The inherent issue with the movement of these microbes through space is that they can be later misinterpreted as organic life, or alien to Earth, when it is actually of terrestrial origin.

As to why SpaceX decided against cleaning the vehicle, the Tesla was never intended to land on Mars. This is a difficult pill to swallow, as it seems impossible to assume that the car would never make it there in some capacity, if not for the simple fact that it was shot there—but impacts and controlled landings are two very different things. With little to do about the ever-fleeting microbes, a person might find solace in the vacuum of space, a place where all living things must find their conclusion. Unfortunately, microbes are hardy organisms that can survive some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Among them, there are those with the ability to survive on the vehicle for millions of years.

According to the planetary scientist Jay Melosh of Purdue University, “If there is an indigenous Mars biota, it’s at risk of being contaminated by terrestrial life.” Unfortunately, there is little that can be done at this point to contain the problem, but perhaps we can still ensure this does not happen again.

Elon Musk is a visionary—a Benjamin Franklin of the new age, if you will. He strives to meet impossible goals that have the potential to come about with the dedication of large teams and large amounts of resources. He has the public at his back and his eyes set on a future he hopes to build for the rest of the world. With publicity becoming more important and the Musk brand becoming a reality of modern life, perhaps all a person needs to do to preserve places like Mars is not allow themselves to become caught up in what just might be the next great race to space.

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