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Proceedings Paper

Survival of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 in simulated Mars atmosphere in real space conditions
Author(s): Parag A. Vaishampayan; George E. Fox; Kasthuri Venkateswaran
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Paper Abstract

To prevent forward contamination and maintain the scientific integrity of future life detection missions, it is important to characterize and attempt to eliminate terrestrial microorganisms associated with exploratory spacecraft and landing vehicles. Among the organisms isolated from spacecraft-associated habitats, spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 exhibited unusually high resistance to decontamination techniques such as UVradiation and peroxide treatment. Subsequently, Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 was flown to the International Space Station (ISS) and exposed to a variety of space conditions using the European Technology Exposure Platform and Experiment Facility (EuTEF). After 18 months exposure in the EuTEF facility under dark space conditions, SAFR-032 spores showed 10 to 40% survivability, whereas a survival rate of 85 to 100% was observed when these spores were kept aboard the ISS under dark simulated-Mars atmospheric conditions. In contrast, when UV (>110nm) was exerted on SAFR-032 spores for the same time period and conditions using the EuTEF, a ~7-log reduction in viability was noticed. However, the UV exposure still did not inactivate all the spores as 19 CFUs were later isolated via cultivation. A parallel experiment was conducted on Earth with identical samples but under simulated conditions. Spores exposed to ground simulations showed less of a reduction in viability when compared with the "real space" exposed spores (~3-log reduction in viability for Mars UV, and ~4-log reduction in viability for Space UV). The data generated is important to assess the probability and mechanisms of microbial survival, microbial contaminants of risk for forward contamination, in situ life detection, and to safeguard the integrity of sample return missions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 7 September 2010
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 7819, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XIII, 78190Q (7 September 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.862231
Show Author Affiliations
Parag A. Vaishampayan, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
George E. Fox, Univ. of Houston (United States)
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7819:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XIII
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Yu. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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