As part of the immense body of scientific activity brought about by the exploration of the moon, some lunar material was brought to Earth. Quite understandably one of the main concerns about that was the possibility of contamination of our planet by unknown lunar microorganisms. A wide variety of organisms, like the expected mice, as well as the not so expected oyster (and many others) were exposed to lunar material for this purposes. In none of the tests there was any evidence of pathogenic organisms present.
One of the animals exposed to lunar dust was our friend the planarian! As before, no physiological abnormalities nor any toxicity or fatalities were observed at the time.
In a related note, I seem to remember that planarians were taken in the space shuttle for some experiments suggested by middle- and high-school students but I can’t find any information. If you know anything about it, drop me a line!
Also, there seems to be information on microgravity experiments using planarians, but most of the NASA archives are giving the following message when trying to gain access:
“The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access while the agency conducts a review of the site’s content to ensure that it does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed. The site will return to service when the review is complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Anyway, I will keep checking the NASA’s website to try to get some information about it. I am curious. Please remember that planarians are very much adept to regenerate and heal upon injury. These properties of the worms if studied in a microgravity environment (like up there) can provide important insights that may prove useful to treat injuries in these kinds of environments, particularly in extended space missions.
I will tell you more as I find more information, but for now, I am sleepy; it is past midnight at my corner of the world… (:-)
If you want to know more:
Benschoter CA et al., (1970) Apollo 11: Exposure of Lower Animals to Lunar Material. Science 169:3944; 470-472.
Logo credit: NASA