Staying Safe in Space

Date Published: April 17, 2017
Jennifer Tsang

Jennifer Tsang wrote mainly about safeguards with future microbial interactions in outer space. She touched upon safeguards against interplanetary contamination, about how NASA is preparing a lander destined for further investigation of Europa’s saltwater ocean underneath its icy surface (to look for extraterrestrial life, no less), and about their methods on how to handle any possible contaminants on the lander’s outer walls once it comes back from its long voyage.

Human gut microbiota from outer space, according to Jennifer’s research, decrease in diversity and compromise the immune system, which opportunistic pathogens may take advantage of. Bacteria also become more virulent and more resistant to antibiotics while exposed to increased radiation levels and microgravity.

The author actually mentioned L.G. Baas Becking’s Principle of Ubiquity, which states that we can find microbial life everywhere on Earth, in every environment, in every biome, but that certain microorganisms exist only in a particular habitat–“…The environment selects.”

Antibiotic resistance was also touched upon by the author, how in space bacteria actually experience an enhanced resistance against them due to conditions in the environment.

Lastly, this article goes well under the astrobiology category of our curriculum.

Critical Analysis:
This article was interesting to me because of the astrobiological implications of the topics Jennifer Tsang has discussed. I learned that in space, the microbial content in our bodies gets significantly altered in a way that could mean harm to us in the future and may pose a huge risk for future space endeavors, especially for the astronauts involved, who are directly handling the missions.

The author appeared more credible in my eyes once she started putting links to her sources throughout the article.

How do we prevent our gut microbe diversity from decreasing so much that our immune functions gets compromised while in a zero-gravity environment? Is there a way for us to retain them, using our knowledge right now, in order to help our astronauts cope in space?