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How Can Science Benefit from Microbes on the ISS?

Sep 23, 2016 05:35 AM EDT

What can microbes from space tell scientists on Earth? The world is about to find out as experts are currently analyzing fungi grown from microbe samples collected from the International Space Station (ISS).

The samples inside a petri dish contain fungi grown from samples collected aboard the ISS during the Microbial Tracking-1 experiment, an investigation designed to look into different kinds of microbes collected from the surfaces of the space station including the air.

Based on NASA's data, more than 200 astronauts had already crossed the "threshold" to the ISS to perform vital research. All of the mission is connected to various scientific experiments whose primary goal is to find something beneficial to Earth and mankind in general. Some research materials are also geared towards improving the chances and survival of astronauts when the Journey to Mars mission is launched. The microbes are now the focus of a brand new research partnership between NASA and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a non-profit organization. This proves the fact that the ISS holds not only astronauts, according to Popular Science.

It is a fact that people bring with them microbes everywhere. Some reside within the body like the intestines, while some are found outside the body on the skin and clothing. This is what made the experiment possible, given the number of human beings who managed to go to the space station and back to Earth. This is also where the concern that mankind may contaminate Mars or any other planet or bodies at that, during deep space explorations.

What's interesting is that when microbes from humans enter a controlled environment such as the International Space Station (ISS) they tend to build their own ecosystem in order to thrive. This is known as the Microbiome of Built Environments (MoBE).

With the materials already available, NASA is now seeking the expertise of postdoctoral fellows to help study the microbes grown from samples collected from the ISS. This is to identify how the ecosystem of microbes evolve, adapt and colonize when exposed to different environments.

"NASA is incredibly excited to partner with the Sloan Foundation through a Space Act Agreement to look at the microbiome of the space station to better understand how to control the microbial environment in future human exploration spacecraft," David Tomko, Ph.D., space biology program scientist at NASA said in a press release.

NASA's interest in microbiology research is in line wth Sloan Foundation's passion for microbiome of built environments. The said research is significant and is considered as a ground-breaking research because it will prepare astronauts for deep space explorations that will entail longer space flights.


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