Disease from Alien Worlds? Living amongst the Stars

Alien Disease

Dying of disease or indigestion under alien suns?

Blog about food, drink, and communicable disease in our journey to the stars.

The word for today is MEDICAL RESEARCH.

Admit it. You would love to swagger into a cantina on a distant world, amble to the bar, and order a big mug of Kelusian Cobalt Ale with a plate of deep-fried seafood and a side of sliced cheeses. Maybe a little Beriean bread, too. Those brown-crusted, blue-and-red baguettes taste like crunchy sourdough with a hint of salt. Yum.

And then your windpipe seizes up and you choke to death, because ale contains concentrated ethanol, and the flour for the bread comes from a local grain high in cyanide.

But don’t worry about missing the shuttle back to your ship in orbit. If you survive the toxins and poisons, you’ve already absorbed enough local pathogens—i.e., harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses—to kill you twenty times over, so you’d only contaminate your shipmates and spread death at whatever ports you next disembark.

How serious can the threat be? I mean, space-faring travelers in sci-fi movies pay almost no attention to the dangers of contracting and passing along killer, alien diseases, like the Andromeda Strain.

Decontamination after Space Flight

But actual astronauts have taken space bugs very seriously. One of the least likely places where life might exist, even in microbial form, has to be the airless, radiation-blasted surface of Earth’s moon. Here’s what happened in part when Neil Armstrong and his crew arrived home.

A half-hour after splashdown, a frogman in an isolation suit passed three isolation suits through the spacecraft hatch… The astronauts’ exhalations and the frogmen’s inhalations were filtered… The astronauts climbed into a rubber boat and were scrubbed down with an iodine solution by a frogman. The astronauts, in turn, scrubbed down the frogman. After the crew had been lifted into the helicopter, the Apollo spacecraft got a similar scrubbing. The isolation garments and the scrubbing were phases of the elaborate precautions against possible, but unlikely, contamination by lunar organisms. [NASA Mission Report.]

The Danger of an Alien Disease

Think about the implications of treading upon a world with a viable biosphere. If you doubt the real danger, consult history books about what killed off the Aztecs (mumps, measles and smallpox), Incas (smallpox), and the indigenous population of the Hawaiian Islands (venereal diseases, measles, chicken pox, polio and tuberculosis).

All were European diseases, although some scholars have speculated that syphilis originated among the in the New World and returned to Europe as a real form of Moctezuma’s revenge. Those theories have been called into question in recent studies, but the point is well taken—bad news travels both directions.

How will we deal with contagious diseases “out there” without cauterizing every biosphere and replanting among the ashes? My book Star Lawyers Book – Jump Gate Omega forecasts advanced biofilters and high-tech smart-meds to prevent disease, plus the ability to enhance human immune systems to ward of alien pathogens.

Disease prevention in Space Ships

For the microbe threat, the Sioux City had a first-class set of bio-filters primed to destroy any contaminant lifeforms tracked inside the ship. That plus one good decon shower on the way home and he would be bug-free. Any danger to the local biosphere was also negligible, because onboard scrubbers killed all microbial and viral lifeforms on his clothes and body as he exited the ship. Well, that was the theory, anyway.

My contribution to the future of deep space settlement—which some scientists and ethicists say should not even be attempted, due to risks to alien biospheres and the possibility of corrupting natural selection/evolution on other worlds—is to make the repeated appeal for actual science, including speculative medical research, to be done about the problem before we sight our first big blue marble orbiting another sun.

If you’ve seen Avatar, you know there is no damned way the ethicists will hold back the tide of development on habitable worlds. My serious proposal is this: Let’s boldly go there, having done our homework, so we don’t kill off the natives or die from their diseases when M-double-I opens for business along Brightstar Curve.

“Dr. Tom”

Tucson, AZ

6 August 2018

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

Jump Gate Omega (Star Lawyers Book 1) and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Book 2) and The Blue King Murders (Star Lawyers Book 3) are live. If you didn’t read it yet, the prequel to the series is also available and you can Download my free short story here!

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