Microbial Tracking Payload Series (Microbial Observatory-1) - 11.22.16
Along with orbital crew members and experimental payloads, the International Space Station (ISS) is home to a variety of microbes, which can threaten crew health and jeopardize equipment. The Microbial Payload Tracking Series (Microbial Observatory-1) investigation monitors the types of microbes present on ISS over a one-year period. Samples are returned to Earth for further study, enabling scientists to understand the diversity of the microbial flora on the ISS and how it changes over time. Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending Experiment Details
OpNom: Microbial Observatory-1
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
George E. Fox, Ph.D., University of Houston, Houston, TX, United States
Duane L. Pierson, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Douglas Botkin, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA Research Office - Space Life and Physical Sciences (NASA Research-SLPS)
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - September 2015; March 2016 - September 2016
For the Microbial Payload Tracking Series (Microbial Observatory-1) investigation, identification of the microbial diversity on ISS enables:
- understanding risk to crew health in a closed environment for infection and illness.
- understanding risk to fouling of clean air supplies and contamination of fluids and food.
- understanding the similarities and differences between microbial communities on ISS and on Earth in nominal and extreme environments.
- identifying which microbes flourish in the spaceflight and microgravity environment, which is important from a crew health perspective based on the published findings that pathogenic bacteria become more virulent in this environment.
- studies into how microbes adapt to the microgravity and spaceflight extreme environment, which may provide insight in to individual and community adaptation to environmental changes.
Millions of microbes live in and among humans on the ISS, where they can threaten crew members’ health. The Microbial Observatory-1 project uses microbial analysis techniques to establish a census of the microorganisms living on ISS surfaces and in its atmosphere. Culture-based analysis can help determine whether some microbes are more virulent in space, and which genetic changes might be involved in this response. A census database will provide a better understanding of microbe diversity on board the station, as well as genetic strategies for identifying specific subsets. Sampling the US modules three times during one year enables researchers to conduct long-term, multigenerational studies of microbial population dynamics. Results from this investigation can be used to evaluate cleaning strategies, and to mitigate microbe-related risks to crew health and spacecraft system performance.
The Microbial Observatory-1 project provides a basis for using -omics strategies, including genomics, to screen for and identify specific types of microorganisms. The same techniques can be used to identify microbes in hospitals, pharmaceutical laboratories and other environments on Earth where microbe identification is crucial. Results from this investigation provide new insights into microbes’ metabolic pathways, which could be used to develop new drugs and antibacterial products to fight microbes on Earth.
Operational Requirements and Protocols
Decadal Survey Recommendations
Plant and Microbial Biology P1
Plant and Microbial Biology P2
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