home News Fungi, Bacteria, and ArcheaArchaea on “clean” hardware destined for Mars

Fungi, Bacteria, and ArcheaArchaea on “clean” hardware destined for Mars

Here’s a case where just the title of an article is awesome: “Pyrosequencing-Derived Bacterial, Archaeal, and Fungal Diversity of Spacecraft Hardware Destined for Mars”.  Sadly it’s not open access but the abstract is worth a read at a minimum.

The authors conducted environmental surveys in cleanrooms and of equipment destined for Mars.  Basically they found that the rigorous cleaning protocols employed in the cleanrooms were enough to remove most, but not all of the potential interplanetary hitchhikers.   They found several taxa that repeatedly survived the cleaning process.

The authors discuss why this is such a problem, as well as noting:

“The majority of bacterial OTU observed as being recurrent belonged to actinobacteria and alpha-proteobacteria, supporting the hypothesis that the measures of cleanliness exerted in SAC [spacecraft assembly cleanroom] may inadvertently select for organisms which may be the most fit to survive long journeys in space.”

This image is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA.
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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

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