NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Bacterial Chemotaxis (NanoRacks-VCHS-Bacterial Chemotaxis) - 09.27.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Bacteria and some other single-celled organisms move around when they sense various chemicals, a phenomenon called chemotaxis, which allows them to locate food and other organisms. The NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Bacterial Chemotaxis (NanoRacks-VCHS-Bacterial Chemotaxis) investigation studies strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria that are cultured with glucose, a food source, to determine whether they perform chemotaxis and whether microgravity affects it. Results provide new understanding of bacterial behavior in space, benefiting efforts to treat and prevent infections on future space missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Valley Christian High School, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Valley Christian High School , Valley Christian High School, San Jose, CA, United States

Dan Saldana, Valley Christian High School, San Jose, CA, United States

Valley Christian High School , San Jose , CA, United States
NanoRacks, LLC, Webster, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - September 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • As humans strive to colonize Mars, a thorough understanding of how bacteria move in microgravity is needed in order to keep people healthy.
  • NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Bacterial Chemotaxis (NanoRacks-VCHS-Bacterial Chemotaxis) investigates bacterial chemotaxis in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) and adds to the understanding of bacterial behavior in space.
  • Learning more about bacterial behavior in space enables better treatment of sick astronauts and ensures that infections can be treated effectively.


NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Bacterial Chemotaxis (NanoRacks-VCHS-Bacterial Chemotaxis) consists of two Escherichia coli (E. coli) K12 cultures in separate chambers, both exhibiting Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). Both cultures are grown on one side of agar with glucose on the other, to see if and how the bacteria performs chemotaxis. All this data is collected with photos taken from a camera. Ultraviolet (UV) lights augment the expressed color of the E. coli. The objectives are to assess the bacterial growth and to test chemotaxis in space. Because chemotaxis is a movement-based phenomenon, it is suspected that it is affected by differences in gravity. Bacteria use flagella to move, and previous research has shown that flagellar movement and operation are affected in microgravity. Hardware includes two Ultraviolet LED, two White LED, two Micro pumps, 1/16 in PVC Sheets, and one ML camera.

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Space Applications

Previous research has shown strains of E. coli and other bacteria can become more virulent in space, but the reasons why are unclear. This investigation studies possible changes in how bacteria move around in microgravity. As humans aim to colonize Mars, the moon, asteroids or other distant destinations, understanding how bacteria move in microgravity will be essential for preventing and treating infections.

Earth Applications
Understanding how bacteria move in microgravity provides new insight into bacterial behavior, improving efforts to develop antibiotics and other antibacterial treatments. In addition, students at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, designed the investigation, gaining real-world experience in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and connecting them to the space program.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

NanoRacks Module-16 is completely autonomous and only requires installation and removal. During actual operation, photographic data is sent to the investigators to track the progress of the experiment. The first three days have the most data transmitted (about 16 VGA quality photographs along with environmental data (humidity and temperature). Thereafter, transmission is limited to 1 VGA photo and environmental data per day for the duration of the flight. The payload chamber needs to be returned to the researchers so its contents can be examined under a microscope.
Crew interaction with Module-16 is limited to transferring the NanoRacks locker insert from the launch vehicle to the ISS, installation and activation of the NanoRacks Frames into the EXPRESS Rack Locker, cleaning of the air inlet filter (as necessary), and data retrieval (as needed) during the mission.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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Block diagram for the NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Bacterial Chemotaxis (NanoRacks-VCHS-Bacterial Chemotaxis) investigation. Image courtesy of Valley Christian High School.

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