The day has finally come when SpaceX, the private spaceflight company, will launch its landmark Falcon 9 from the historic NASA launch pad LC-39A. It is the same pad which once launched the Apollo Mission to moon.
However, Falcon 9 along with carrying resupply and experiments to ISS, is also carrying a superbug named MSRA to the space station.
In a joint venture with NASA, medical doctor and physicist Anita Goel said that the sole aim of sending the superbug to space was to observe its reaction to zero-gravity environment and also to undertand their mutation and resistance to antibiotics.
What Is MSRA?
MSRA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is resistant to antibiotic methicilin among many other antibiotics. MSRA or staph, causes various health problems like bloodstream infections, pneumonia, sepsis and several other skin problems.
Goel, who is also the CEO and chairwoman of Nanobiosym, mentioned that her team is super excited regarding the MSRA project.
"We are excited to put MRSA on the International Space Station and investigate the effects of microgravity on the growth and mutation patterns of these bugs," said Goel at a NASA new conference.
Goel further added that microgravity may accelerate the mutation process of the superbug. The acceleration will allow the researchers to peek into the mutation process of the bug which in turn will help them to produce smarter drugs on Earth.
How Will The Superbug Get Delivered?
Goel assured everyone that the superbug will be delivered safely to the astronauts residing in the cramped quarters of the space station. She added that they will never come in direct contact with the bug, during its stay on the space station.
The bacteria will be sealed with three levels of containment and will be tightly packed so as to protect it from rapid depressurization, as well as to keep it safe from the rigors of traveling on a rocket to a space station outside the atmosphere of the Earth.
Moreover this is not NASA's first tryst with bacteria and bugs traveling to the space station.
The International Space Station (ISS) has been the host to several early bacterial researches and even has its own "microbiome."
Goel, however, is super curious to know what the results of the mission would be and also further stated that anything or any innovation in space will bring new understanding in several fields of life.
Importance of Falcon 9 Launch
The launch of Falcon 9 cannot be treated as just another resupply mission to space for the sole reason that the rocket will be launched from the iconic launch pad LC-39A. NASA's LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, hosted the launch of Apollo Mission, the first manned space mission to moon.
The launch pad was last used in 2011 by NASA when it launched the Atlantis space shuttle, which later met with an accident in outer space, resulting in the death of all the astronauts aboard the craft.
The launch pad was leashed to SpaceX on 2014 and Falcon 9 will launch on Feb. 18 at 10:01 a.m. EST (1501 GMT).