With so many probes heading for Mars and other planets, the question of whether they could bring back new diseases has become important. SARS, Mad Cow Disease and HIV are only three of the diseases that have crossed the species barrier, so infectious pathogens from Martian rock samples probably could too.

Leslie Mullen writes in Astrobiology Magazine that the International Committee Against Martian Sample Return is worried about this. Not all pathogens cross the species barrier?our dogs and cats get diseases that don’t affect us. Chicken and sheep farmers are untouched by diseases that wipe out their flocks and herds. A Martian microbe could enter the human body, but be harmless because it’s incompatible with human physiology.
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A Russian cosmonaut and an American woman are planning a long distance marriage on August 10th, because they can’t find time to get married on the ground. Yekaterina Dmitriev, who lives in Richmond, Texas, plans to marry Russian Air Force Colonel Yuri Malenchenko next month when he’s in the International Space Station. “This shows you that long-distance relationships do work,” Dmitriev says.

Diane Wilson, County Clerk for Fort Bend, says, “We marry a lot of people when one partner is absent either because they are in the military or are incarcerated.”

The couple will recite their vows by phone link, and their attorney Harry Noe will step in for Malenchenko if their connection breaks down.

Maybe they’ll have some very special bridesmaids.
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People like to send mail that’s postmarked “Christmas,” or some other exotically-named town. Now you can send someone a letter from the International Space Station?if you can afford the $20,000 “stamp.” Now that the Russians are no longer taking tourists to the ISS, they’re thinking up new ways to make money to support their space program. For former communists, they certainly believe in capitalism when it comes to outer space.
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Astronomers once wanted to know what the surface of the moon and Mars looked like. Now we’ve been to the moon and sent robots to Mars, so they have new and more complex problems to ponder, such as:

Are we Martians? Scientists now agree that life could survive the trip on an asteroid to Earth from Mars, and what look like microbes have been found on a meteorite. A rock from Mars hits the Earth about once a month, on average, so there was plenty of opportunity for life to have been seeded here. If we find life on Mars, and compare it to the most basic life forms here, it will help to answer the question. More questions below…
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