From: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Published June 28, 2017 04:45 PM

NASA Keeps a Close Eye on Tiny Stowaways

Wherever you find people, you also find bacteria and other microorganisms. The International Space Station is no exception.

That generally is not a problem. For one thing, the space station is kept cleaner than many environments on Earth. Routine cleaning activities are included on astronaut task schedules. Cargo sent to the station, and the vehicles that carry it, undergo a rigorous cleaning process and monitoring for microorganisms before launch. Crew members assigned to the space station spend 10 days in pre-flight quarantine.

For another, scientists regularly monitor the interior of this and other spacecraft, a process that started with the Apollo missions.

“Once every three months, we sample from two locations in each module of the U.S. segment of the station,” says Mark Ott, a microbiologist at Johnson Space Center. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, monitors its segments. Samples collected from surfaces and from the air are cultured on plates containing a growth medium, one specific for bacteria and another for fungi. Those plates return to the ground and scientists identify each organism that grows on them.

Drinking water on the station is treated similarly to the water we drink on earth to kill and keep microorganisms from growing. Regular monitoring also keeps an eye on the station’s drinking water system. For years, scientists conducted this monitoring once a month, but samples kept coming back so clean that the schedule changed to once every three months. The astronauts’ drinking water is, microbiologically speaking, cleaner than just about anything they drink on earth, says Ott.

Read more at: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Image: View of Microbiome swab kit containing Microbiome samples from various physical surfaces prior to being stowed in MELFI or GLACIER to achieve experiment objectives. (Credits: NASA)

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

2017©. Copyright Environmental News Network