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Adam Giandomenico, Particles Plus Inc.
Scott Mackler, Cleanroom Consulting LLC
Gregg A. Mosley, Biotest Laboratories Inc.
Robert Nightingale, Cleanroom Garments
Bipin Parekh, Ph. D., Entegris Inc.
Michael Rataj, Aramark Cleanroom Services
Howard Siegerman, Ph. D., Siegerman and Associates LLC
Scott Sutton, Ph. D., Microbiology Network Inc.
Art Vellutato, Jr., Veltek Associates Inc.
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Vol. 21 • No. 2
FROM THE EDITOR 3 March/April 2018 • www.cemag.us
Too Dirty for Space?
The recent test flightof SpaceX’s reusablesuper heavy-lift launch vehicle, Falcon Heavy, garnered international attention and countless Internet viewers … not only because of the promise it holds for the future of space
travel, but also due to what was carried inside.
Falcon Heavy launched from the Kennedy Space Center
in Florida on Feb. 6 after minor delays, and headed skyward.
Within 10 minutes of launch, its reusable side boosters separated from the center core and returned in near-perfect
synchronization to their respective landing zones at Cape
Canaveral, prompting chants and cheers from the crowd gathered at the space center
to watch the mission. However, the center booster — which was supposed to land
delicately on a drone ship out at sea — experienced an engine problem during its
descent and was lost when it plummeted into the water at over 300 miles per hour.
The payload inside of Falcon Heavy was arguably the most attention-grabbing
part of the mission. Once in orbit, the rocket’s capsule burst open to release Elon
Musk’s personal car — a cherry red, electric, 2008 Tesla roadster, with a copy of The
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stowed in the glove compartment and blasting David
Bowie songs on the radio. The first commercial car sent into space, the roadster is
carrying a passenger dubbed “Starman” — a dummy wearing the SpaceX-designed
spacesuit that SpaceX plans to have its own human astronauts wear someday. The
car is on an interstellar path heading towards the Asteroid Belt between Mars and
Jupiter, and could be in orbit for millions of years, unless it’s damaged by the conditions of space or on the slight off-chance that it crashes into Earth or Mars.
Some are thrilled by the scientific implications of the roadster being sent into
space. Others have called it a work of art, a silly publicity stunt, or a waste of a very
expensive car that most people would’ve gladly taken off Musk’s hands.
Others in the space exploration community, however, have pointed out that
sending a personal car into space could carry contamination risks. Most spacecraft
are prepared in a cleanroom setting before being launched into space. For example,
the Curiosity rover that’s currently carrying out experiments on Mars was fully
integrated and tested in the High Bay 1 cleanroom at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, Calif., before being sent into space in November 2011. The Spacecraft
Assembly Facility is a Class 10,000 ISO 7 cleanroom with horizontal airflow and
return. The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope,
spent time in a Class 10,000 cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md. Sensitive optics and instruments inside these spacecraft need
to be protected from contamination, as a mission could be ruined by exposure.
Furthermore, something launched into space that’s eventually going to come back to
Earth will be examined upon its return, and Earth-based contamination may cause
confusion as to what may really be out in space. For example, a Russian cosmonaut
made a claim in late 2017 that living bacteria had been found on the outside of the
International Space Station and that the bacteria came from outer space. However,
this was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, as the bacteria most likely came from
Earth contamination prior to a satellite