Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Monitoring microbes to keep Marsonauts healthy
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 06, 2017

In order to find out which bacterial species may be present in the air and on the surfaces inside spacecraft and how the composition of the microbiota may change during human habitation, a crew of six male "Marsonauts" lived inside a mock-up spacecraft, located in Moscow, from 3rd June 2010 to 5th November 2011.

To guarantee a safe environment for astronauts on long-duration space missions such as a journey to Mars, it is important to monitor how microorganisms such as bacteria adapt to the confined conditions onboard spacecraft, according to a study published in the open access journal Microbiome.

Dr Petra Schwendner, University of Edinburgh, corresponding author of the study said: "Until now, little was known about the influence of long-term confinement on the microorganisms that live inside habitats that may one day be used to travel to other planets, and whether the structure of the microbiota changes with time. Ours is the first comprehensive long-time study that investigates the microbial load, diversity and dynamics in a closed habitat - a mock-up spacecraft - for 520 days, the full duration of a simulated flight to Mars."

The team of researchers from Germany, UK and Austria, led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), found that apart from the crew who were the main source of human-associated bacteria inside the habitat, confinement appeared to be the strongest trigger shaping the bacterial community - the microbiota - which remained highly dynamic over time.

Human-associated microorganisms, including Bacillus and Staphylococcus species were the most frequent, indicating that humans were the main source for microbial dispersal, according to the researchers. For example, Staphylococcus, which is frequently found in the nose, respiratory tract, and on the skin, was probably dispersed via skin flakes shed by the crew. Although Staphylococcus will not always cause disease, it is a common cause of skin infections, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.

In order to find out which bacterial species may be present in the air and on the surfaces inside spacecraft and how the composition of the microbiota may change during human habitation, a crew of six male "Marsonauts" lived inside a mock-up spacecraft, located in Moscow, from 3rd June 2010 to 5th November 2011.

During the isolation period the crew members remained fully confined - they never left the closed habitat. Simulating conditions during a manned mission to Mars, they followed a strict diet and schedule, which included cleaning the habitat and conducting scientific experiments. They collected 360 microbial samples from 20 locations (9 air, 11 surface) at 18 time points, using air filters and swabs.

While a core microbiota of the same bacteria was present in all areas of the mock-up spacecraft, the authors noticed specific bacterial signatures for each individual area, or module, indicating that - much like in other indoor environments - microbial presence is associated with human presence as well as the type of activity that an area is used for. Communal areas, sleep areas, the gym, and the toilet had the highest numbers and greatest diversity of bacteria, while the lowest numbers of bacteria were found inside the medical module.

Dr Schwendner said: "We also saw the impact of cleaning agents. Although we located some microbial hotspots, where the number of bacteria was much higher than in other areas, we were quite relieved to find that the overall bacterial counts were within the acceptable limits. Due to appropriate cleaning measures, the microbial community inside the habitat was under control at all times with no or little risk for the crew."

The researchers also noticed that the microbial diversity decreased significantly over time which means that there were fewer different species of bacteria present. This may indicate potentially problematic developments within the microbial community during long-duration isolation, according to the authors. High microbial diversity is normally associated with systemic stability and health.

Dr Schwendner said: "In addition to potential health risks for the crew, some of these microorganisms could have a negative impact on spacecraft, as they grow on and might damage spacecraft material. To ensure the systems' stability, countermeasures may be required to avoid development of highly resistant, adapted microorganisms, and a complete loss of microbial diversity. Our study provides valuable insights into the quality of habitat maintenance and improves the selection of appropriate microbial monitoring approaches, allowing for the development of efficient and adequate countermeasures."

Research paper

Telemedicine via satellite improves care at astronaut landings
Paris (ESA) Oct 03, 2017
Tempus Pro, a portable vital-signs monitor offering telemedicine via satellite, is helping medics at ESA astronaut landings. Thomas Pesquet was the first to benefit at the end of his mission in May. Astronauts returning from space must readjust to life on Earth. Gravity influences the body's balance, cardiovascular functions, and especially the muscles, so astronauts are carefully monitore ... read more

Related Links
BioMed Central
Space Medicine Technology and Systems

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Alaska antenna to improve NASA's space communications system

USNO Astronomers Measure New Distances To Nearby Stars

NASA May Extend BEAM's Time on the International Space Station

OECD calls for tourism to be more sustainable

Arianespace to launch COSMO-SkyMed satellites manufactured by Thales

New Zealand opens first rocket launch site

Launch Vehicle and Missile Ascent Trajectories

Ariane 5 rocket puts satellites into orbit on second attempt

Lockheed Martin Reveals New Details to its Mars Base Camp Vision

Fresh Look at Old Data Yields Surprise Near Martian Equator

Methane belches kept water flowing on ancient Mars

Another Chance to Put Your Name on Mars

UN official commends China's role in space cooperation

Mars probe to carry 13 types of payload on 2020 mission

China's cargo spacecraft separates from Tiangong-2 space lab

Work on China's mission to Mars 'well underway'

L-Band Satellite Operators Need To Reposition

GomSpace and Luxembourg to develop space activities in the Grand Duchy

Spacepath Communications Acquires Tango Wave

Brodeur Partners Launches Entrepreneurial Space Group

Sputnik, the tiny sphere that launched the space race

New laser sensor could detect explosives, dangerous gases more quickly

Germany-based Hensoldt acquires Kelvin Hughes

UV-irradiated amorphous ice behaves like liquid at low temperatures

MATISSE to Shed Light on the Formation of Earth and Planets

Glenn Tests Thruster Bound for Metal World

Searching for Distant Worlds With a Flying Telescope

Scientists propose new concept of terrestrial planet formation

Helicopter test for Jupiter icy moons radar

Solving the Mystery of Pluto's Giant Blades of Ice

Global Aerospace Corporation to present Pluto lander concept to NASA

Pluto features given first official names

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement