Finding out why microbes grow better in space is an emerging new business.
Thomas Pickens (son of the billionaire energy entrepreneur, T. Boone Pickens) doesn't care all that much why this phenomena occurs?—he just wants to cash in on it. ...Pickens established a subsidiary to develop vaccines using the fruits of space research like last month's experiment. "We found it commercially viable to send microbes to space," he says. "They just jump off the charts in terms of growth."
To make it easy on the astronauts, researchers at AstroGenetix placed the staph cultures in a fortified can; all the astronauts had to do was crank a handle to expose the cultures to nutrients inside. When it is time to come home, the astronauts turn the handle again to kill the cultures and bring the grown staph cells back to Earth for DNA testing. The rapid growth makes it easy to isolate the genes that make the microbes more virulent. Microbes that are stripped of these genes could be used as a basis for vaccines. There are multiple layers of protection to keep the samples from contaminating the environment of the ISS, Pickens says.