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The modern interconnected world allows incredibly quick and uninhibited travel across the planet, as exemplified by this week’s fastest-ever subsonic flight between New York and London. This ease and freedom of movement, while greatly facilitating commerce and tourism, also enables the quick and broad spread of viruses, such as the novel coronavirus, which, while in the past would have been relatively isolated within China, is quickly becoming a global pandemic.

And, like the coronavirus that became more deadly to humans as it grew at the wet market in Wuhan where living and dead wildlife is sold, research conducted in the past few decades showed that some bacteria become more deadly and resilient when grown in space. But this notion is not new, as deadly space contagions are a long-standing science fiction trope. In the late 1960s, Michael Crichton published the New York Times best-seller, The Andromeda Strain. In the book, and later the film by four-time Academy Award winner Robert Wise, a highly virulent extraterrestrial contagion infects and kills an entire town.

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Category: Science