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Microgravity: living on the International Space Station
Microgravity: living on the International Space Station

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3 ‘Space bugs’

As well as wondering what space travel does to a human body, it is also worth asking what does space travel do to microbes? Microgravity environments can alter their genetics, commanding the microbes to do things differently.

There are billions of microbes in the gut of one astronaut on the ISS. Many of them are very beneficial. For example, some produce vitamin K to help blood to clot; others help to digest food. It has been found, though, that in a microgravity environment the ability of Salmonella to cause disease is increased. Other bacteria, however, produce more helpful antibiotics in space than on Earth.

Now watch Video 3, which introduces ‘space bugs’, and then complete Activity 4.

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Video 3 Sixty-second adventures in microgravity: space bugs.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Activity 4 Bacteria in a microgravity environment

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Choose the correct option to answer the following questions.

1. What did scientists discover about bacteria in space, compared with those on Earth? They are:

a. 

less virulent


b. 

unchanged


c. 

more virulent


d. 

eliminated


e. 

unimportant


The correct answer is a.

2. What type of chamber do scientists use to recreate a microgravity environment on Earth when experimenting with bacteria?

a. 

Dropping


b. 

Horizontally moving


c. 

Rotating


d. 

Stationary


e. 

None at all


The correct answer is c.

3. What effect does this chamber have on the bacteria?

a. 

They can breed and multiply, and know the difference between up and down.


b. 

They can breed and multiply, but don’t know the difference between up and down.


c. 

They can’t breed and multiply, and don’t know the difference between up and down.


d. 

They can breed but they can’t multiply.


e. 

They can’t breed but they can multiply.


The correct answer is b.

You will now look at how random positioning machines are used in experiments.