Elon Musk, chief executive and chief technology officer of SpaceX, in 2014. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Josh Stern’s June 14 letter to the editor, “Why the rush to colonize Mars? ,” raised the question about how future Mars missions should avoid contaminating the planet. SpaceX takes planetary protection very seriously. We are working with NASA to develop and implement stringent procedures. These will first be used for our Red Dragon missions, beginning in 2018.

At the same time, we should not slow our efforts to reach Mars. Humanity’s long-term progress depends on becoming a multiplanet species, and the technological window for this is open now. This might not always be the case. If we care about preserving life, we should take steps to safeguard not only microbial life that might exist but also human life that certainly does — and is ready to reach for a new world.

Dex Torricke-Barton, Hawthorne, Calif.

The writer is senior director of
communications for SpaceX.