90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV are Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming and Classical Music. Part of the community since 1965, providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

Scientists: Keep Your Dirty Earth Germs Off Mars

"Starman" after launching on a Falcon Heavy rocket. Photo: SpaceX / YouTube

The launch this year of a sports car into space signaled a new age in commercial space exploration. But what if ‘Starman’ wasn’t the only passenger on that Tesla? A committee is asking NASA to rework its plans to protect the solar system from contamination by human germs.

The National Academy of Sciences said NASA’s current planetary protection policy is outdated and not ready for future exploration campaigns like human missions to Mars.

Scientists want to search places like Mars for signs of life. If human germs get on the planet, it could contaminate those results.

While NASA has a planetary protection division, the NAS committee is concerned the process is too cumbersome for future missions that are complex and doesn’t account for the emergence of private companies exploring the solar system.

Earlier this year, SpaceX sent an electric car in an orbit near Mars but planetary protection wasn’t considered when granting SpaceX its license to launch.

A report penned by the committee suggests both private and public missions be subject to the same planetary protection rules.

A NASA mission exploring Saturn was sent crashing into the planet to avoid contaminating a nearby moon which could hold signs of life.

Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity

Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »