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ISS Surface As Littered With Microbes As A Gym, Claims NASA’s Scientists

The study provides the first comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi found on surfaces in closed space systems and can be used to help improve safety measures that meet NASA requirements for deep space human habitation.

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Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health. Pixabay

 A team of NASA researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist has found the surface inside the International Space Station (ISS) is littered with microbes just like in a gym or office on Earth — threatening astronauts’ health at the orbiting laboratory.

The knowledge of the composition of the microbial and fungal communities on the ISS can be used to develop safety measures for NASA for long-term space travel or living in space, said the researchers in a paper that appeared in the open access journal Microbiome.

Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health.

“This is even more important for astronauts during spaceflight, as they have altered immunity and do not have access to the sophisticated medical interventions available on Earth,” said Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and a corresponding author.

The researchers used traditional culture techniques and gene sequencing methods to analyse surface samples collected in eight locations on the ISS, including the viewing window, toilet, exercise platform, dining table and sleeping quarters, during three flights across 14 months.

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The authors found that while fungal communities were stable, microbial communities were similar across locations but changed over time. Pixabay

This allowed them to examine if and how the microbial and fungal populations differed between locations and over time.

The authors found that while fungal communities were stable, microbial communities were similar across locations but changed over time.

The microbes on the ISS were mostly human-associated. The most prominent bacteria were Staphylococcus, Pantoea and Bacillus.

They included organisms that are considered opportunistic pathogens on Earth, such as Staphylococcus aureus, which is commonly found on the skin and in the nasal passage and Enterobacter, which is associated with the human gastrointestinal tract.

“On Earth, they are predominant in gyms, offices, and hospitals, which suggests that the ISS is similar to other built environments where the microbiome is shaped by human occupation,” the study noted.

There are currently six astronauts on board the International Space Station.

Whether these opportunistic bacteria could cause disease in astronauts on the ISS is unknown. This would depend on a number of factors, including the health status of each individual and how these organisms function while in the space environment.

bacteria
The knowledge of the composition of the microbial and fungal communities on the ISS can be used to develop safety measures for NASA for long-term space travel or living in space, said the researchers in a paper that appeared in the open access journal Microbiome. Pixabay

“Regardless, the detection of possible disease-causing organisms highlights the importance of further studies to examine how these ISS microbes function in space,” said Dr Checinska Sielaff, the study’s first author.

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The study provides the first comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi found on surfaces in closed space systems and can be used to help improve safety measures that meet NASA requirements for deep space human habitation.

“The results can also have significant impact on our understanding of other confined built environments on the Earth such as clean rooms used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries,” said Dr Venkateswaran. (IANS)

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)