It’s too weird to make up: NASA fed some of its precious Apollo 11 lunar samples to cockroaches. And dumped it in fishbowls. And injected mice with it. No, really.
NASA still has most of the moon rocks the Apollo 11 crew brought home, but a small fraction of the astronauts’ bounty was used up in a little-known but vitally important set of experiments that ensured lunar samples were safe to keep here on Earth.
Scientists were pretty sure that there weren’t any potentially dangerous germs living on the moon, but they couldn’t be absolutely sure. And while the retrieval of moon rocks was an incredible gift to science, it could have been quite a curse on Earth if those rocks had turned out to be a risk to terrestrial life. So as part of the agency’s preparations for the mission, NASA had to put together a program of tests.
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