A Researcher's Guide to: International Space Station Microbial Research

A Researcher's Guide to: International Space Station Microbial Research
A Researcher's Guide to: International Space Station Microbial Research
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Over the past 50 years, a combination of operational experience, spaceflight and ground-based research have provided tremendous insight into infectious disease risk as well as necessary preventative measures (Johnston 1969, Taylor 1972, Taylor 1976, Facius 1978, Fang et al. 1997, Nickerson et al. 2004, Ott 2004). Significant strides have been made to define and mitigate the source of microbial contamination aboard spacecraft and to document the responses of numerous microorganisms to the spaceflight environment. This collection of experience and research data also helped in the identification of critical gaps in our understanding of how this environment impacts microbial ecology, the microbial genotypic and phenotypic characteristics, and their interactions with plant and animal hosts. As we look toward human interplanetary exploration, the importance of this knowledge has been recognized. With the increases in both the occupancy and duration of humans aboard the ISS, these knowledge gaps are becoming better defined. 

There is much to be gained by employing the microgravity environment of spaceflight as a basic research platform. Life on Earth evolved in the presence of gravity. Therefore, performing research in the reduced gravity of spaceflight holds the potential to determine how this physical force shaped terrestrial life.  Microgravity as a research tool, coupled with current molecular technology, provides researchers the opportunity to establish how variations in this physical force affect microbial life at the cellular, molecular and evolutionary levels.

Students pursuing research in the mollecular biology fields and professional mollecular or cellular scientists may have the greatest interest in this resource and topic.  Professionals in the field of biomedical engineering may also find this resource benefiical.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Microbiology Research Priorities on the ISS 7
The ISS as a Microbial Observatory 9
Research Scope of an ISS Microbial Observatory 10
Benefits of an ISS Microbial Observatory 10
Chapter 2: Microbial Diversity of Spaceflight Crew and Craft 13
Chapter 3: Microbial Responses to Spaceflight 17
A Brief History of Microbial-Based Spaceflight Research 17
Chapter 4: Initiating Ground-Based Research – Spaceflight Analogs 20
An Example of a Spaceflight Analog – The Rotating Wall-Vessel Bioreactor 20
Insights Gained form Microbial Culture within the Rotating Wall-Vessel Bioreactor 22
Chapter 5: What Should Principal Investigators Know About Conducting Research on the ISS? 25
Multipurpose Facilities Available on the ISS 26
Hardware Available for Microbial Experiments 28
Hardware Available for Incubation and Storage 30
Sample Collection, Handling, and Fixation Devices Available on the ISS 31
Process for Payload Development and Implementation 31
Funding Opportunities and Points of Contact 33
Citations 34
Acronyms 41

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Johnson Space Center, NASA ISS Program Science Office
  • Castro, Sarah L.
Includes both a barcode and a QR cocde on cover 4.
Key Phrases:
  • ISS Researcher's Guide Series
  • International Space Station Researcher's Guide Series
  • NP-2013-06-012-JSC
  • Guide To: Microbial Research
  • Microbial Research
  • Researcher's Guide To: Microbial Research
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