Tesla's Starman May Infect Outer Space, Journalist Swapna Krishna Says

Elon Musk was responsible for launching the first car into space, aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6. While this well-orchestrated marketing stunt won the hearts of space geeks around the world, Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman in the driver’s seat might actually be one big space plague waiting to happen.

While SpaceX is undoubtedly at the forefront of spaceflight, this launch could infect a corner of our solar system with Earthly bacteria if it were to ever crash into a planet or moon. Space reporter Swapna Krishna joined Rae Paoletta and Steve Ward on the fifth episode of I Need My Space, Inverse’s podcast about all things extraterrestrial, to discuss how much of a biothreat Starman actually is.

“I agree with a lot of arguments with Starman, Space X is doing great things but I think there’s also a lot of things for criticism,” she said. “[NASA] sent Cassini into [Jupiter’s] atmosphere to be crushed because they didn’t want to possibly contaminate one of Saturn’s moons with Earth bacteria. It’s possible that one of those could spore life.”

Inverse previously reported that researchers at Purdue University were concerned that the germs all over Spaceman could permanently alter Mars. And regardless of how well SpaceX might have polished the sports car, there’s no way that it was properly sterilized.

NASA has an Office of Planetary Protection that is primarily responsible to make sure the spacecraft we launch into space doesn’t contaminate other worlds. Which is exactly why they won’t let you near the Mars InSight Lander ahead of its upcoming launch.

Falcon Heavy Launch

Krishna highlighted that while SpaceX is working towards affordable and accessible space travel, it is important to question a company that might have a huge influence on how humans get to space in the future.

“I did love how much everyone was enamored by those [Starman] pictures, it was a really nice spectacle,” she said. “But now that it’s over it is important to talk about how it can still be a great spectacle but still be [questionable].”

So while a crash test dummy blasting through the atmosphere might be undeniably cool, just remember to look past the guise. There might be a colony of bacteria hiding underneath.

Check out more from the conversation with Swapna Krishna in the fifth episode of I Need My Space. It’d mean the world to us if you subscribed, rated, and reviewed the show.

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