Title: A Microbe Hunter Plies her Trade in Space
Date: March 14, 2017
Summary: Microbiologist Kate Rubins has been investigating the unique microbiome of the International Space Station and establishing a microbiology lab in space. There has been 16 years of accumulation of the microbes brought by varying crews up from Earth, and microbes tend to stick around. While most of the microbes are harmless, some do have the potential to cause problems for crew, varying from infection to mold growing on the wall panels of the Space Station.
Microbiology in space is incredibly important to the future of space travel, be it for identifying alien life, preventing disease while in orbit, or simply improving the quality of life for spacefaring explorers.
Connections: We have been working to identify microbes from various environments and biomes, just as Rubins has, albeit from a less prestigious location. Being able to quickly and accurately identify microbes in all scenarios is something emphasized through the course, and Rubins is putting what we are learning to practical application whilst in orbit.
Critical Analysis: This article was actually a transcript of an NPR broadcast, and so read a little bit differently than most traditional news articles. It was filled with interview blurbs from Rubins, recollections of her time in space, and easy-to-follow explanations of her work. I know NPR works to tell stories as well as news, and this article was an interesting and engaging story. However, if you want the hard details about what Rubins was doing, or the specific microbial work done in the International Space Station, this is not the article for you. This is, more than anything, a story, and is not meant for conveying details. However, as a springboard for ideas, or an interesting illustration that your job can sometimes take you in strange and exciting directions, this is a good read or listen.
Questions: What other positions has NASA been searching for since it has stopped focusing on pilots? Rubins is a microbiologist, but what other branches of the sciences or other professions have gone to space?