When I read this today I could hardly believe it. On the last Space Shuttle Atlantis mission they sent up a bunch of salmonella germs just to see what effect space travel would have on them. Lo and behold, when the little buggers arrived back on Earth the scientists determined that they were much more virulent than when they departed. Mice that were fed these space traveling germs were three times more likely to get sick and die than when fed germs that stayed home and didn’t make the trip. Now get this! The researchers found 167 genes had changed in the salmonella that went to space and nobody knows why. The researchers theorize that the germs can sense where they are by changes in their environment. The minute they sense a different environment, they change their genetic machinery so they can survive. Now THAT, my friends, is scary.
When the astronauts went to the Moon and came back they had to stay in quarantine for a week or so to make sure that they didn’t bring back any space bugs to contaminate the Earth. At the time I thought that this probably wasn’t necessary but now I have changed my mind. It isn’t bugs from outer space that we must worry about. We need to make sure that the bugs we take with us to outer space don’t become super bugs and turn around and kill us. This makes all those black and white Saturday matinee movies about giant flies and giant blobs and such that I saw when I was a kid seem a lot more credible. Imagine if just before they closed the hatch on the next space mission a mosquito got into the Space Shuttle and when it came back it grew and grew until it was the size of a jet plane and even bigger and all the Army guys would shoot at it and not be able to kill it and we had to end up nuking it and then taking it by helicopter to the North pole to freeze it forever and …oh well, you get the picture.