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Bacteria Grown in Space Is Thicker and Stronger Than on Earth

by Brandon Russell | June 30, 2013June 30, 2013 12:00 pm PDT


When/if humans ever colonize Mars, or any other far off planet in the future, we’ll have to put up with super powered mutant bacteria, according to new NASA research. The data was collected by astronaut crews aboard the Atlantis shuttle, who grew colonies of bacteria—also known as biofilms—for the purpose of research. What they found is that during spaceflight, some bacteria had grown stronger, thicker and more super powered than they would have on Earth.

“The space-grown communities of bacteria, called biofilms, formed a ‘column-and-canopy’ structure not previously observed on Earth,” NASA said. Basically, the biofilms grew a greater number of live cells, which made them stronger compared to more controlled biofilms grown under normal gravity conditions.

Scientists are unsure why and how the low-gravity environment affects microorganism growth, so follow-up studies need to be done in order to get a better understanding. Metabolism and virulence are what the scientists are hoping to learn more about, according to lead researcher Cynthia Collins. Once researchers do have a clearer grasp, we’ll know how astronauts will be affected during long-term spaceflight missions—and even if it’s possible for humans to survive on Mars in the first place.

In addition to figuring out how microorganisms are affected out in space, scientists are also considering how mankind can better treat and prevent diseases on Earth. NASA said biofilms can provide new insights about how gravity, fluid dynamics and nutrient availability affect biofilm formation on our planet. Maybe when we do know, we’ll be able to better protect ourselves from mutant space bacterias.

As if the great unknown wasn’t scary enough.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...