Ecological succession of the microbial community of a spacecraft assembly facility in enriched brines relevant to Mars
Carte, M. 2020. Ecological succession of the microbial community of a spacecraft assembly facility in enriched brines relevant to Mars -- In Proceedings: 16th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University, p.17
Life detection missions to Mars should be as free of microbial organisms as possible to avoid transporting contaminants on spacecraft surfaces. Any microbes that make the trip to Mars or the round-trip back to Earth may compromise our ability to recognize authentic biosignatures from native Mars organisms. Current planetary protection protocols require that any spacecraft components must be assembled in cleanrooms that have nearly aseptic conditions, reducing the chance of microbial contamination. This current research studies samples from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Spacecraft Assembly Facility (JPL-SAF), collected from high-traffic surfaces and entryways. Microbes from these samples were enriched in brines representative of Mars' high-salt environment. Through the use of leading-edge molecular genetic techniques, detailed descriptions of the changing microbial communities were made at regular timepoints for up to six months. Over forty bacteria present in the brines after six months of enrichment were isolated, characterized, and identified to determine which microbial strains from JPL-SAF wipes are most likely to survive under the conditions of near-surface Mars. Knowing if microbes from SAFs could potentially survive on Mars informs efforts to protect Mars from microbial contamination that can complicate life detection or harm potential native ecosystems.
Table of Content
Research completed in the Department of Biological Sciences, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences