Author Archives: mikercm

Yeast Cells Are Set to Fly for Space Experiment

The article I chose was from The New York Times website:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/science/space/06yeast.html?_r=1&scp=28&sq=microbes&st=cse

I found further information on the project and its results from the NASA website linked here:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/smallsats/pharmasat/main/index.html

The point of the experiment was essentially to measure the influence of microgravity on yeast resistance to an anti-fungal agent.  Previous experiments had indicated that some organisms become hardier and more virulent in outer space and more resistant to drugs.  Weightlessness might be changing how the drug reacts within the cells, or it might be switching on and off certain genes, resulting in greater resistance.  Such effects will become more of a concern to astronauts on longer-duration space flights like a mission to Mars.

My thoughts:

– Overall I think the research they are conducting could be very useful.  As such a huge part of our life is microbes, if we are going to travel in space we should be learning the effects of zero-gravity conditions not only on ourselves but the microbes around us.

– If microbes do in fact become more resistant to anti-bacterial agents while in space, that is very important to know, as I think we will inevitably have to attempt long-duration space flights at some point.  Learning how microbes react to zero-gravity conditions could help us better prepare for these long trips.

– I also think we need to be cautious of all the bacteria we are taking with us when we do travel to space and potentially to other planets.

– Lastly although the cost of this experiment was said to be cheap, the project still cost 3 million dollars.  Perhaps that money could have been used towards a better cause than learning about the effects of zero-gravity on one specific microbe.

pharmasat nanosatellite