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Space Bacteria? One Microbe Grows Better In Space


For several years scientists on-board the International Space Station have been examining samples of microorganisms and examining how they perform in micro-gravity environments compared with conditions on Earth. Such research is necessary should bacteria and fungi be used as food sources on deep space missions, or even used to help establish a Mars colony. The organisms screened are taken from a range of locations on Earth.

All bacteria to date, except one, have shown the same growth responses. The organism in question is the bacterium Bacillus safensis. This microbe has been found to grow 60 percent better in space than on Earth. The reasons for this remain unknown; however, the genome sequence of this bacterium has recently been determined and this could reveal why low gravity conditions help to accelerate its growth.

Bacillus subtilis

Transmission Electron Microscopy of a Bacillussubtilis cell in cross-section (scale bar = 200 nm)

In a research note, the scientist leading the investigation – Dr. David Coil (UC Davis, U.S.) – said:

“A lot of people ask us why we sent microbes into space. Understanding how microbes behave in microgravity is critically important for planning long-term manned spaceflight but also has the possibility of providing new insights into how these microbes behave in human constructed environments on Earth.”

The research behind the bacillus and others isolated from Earth has been published in the journal Peer J. The research is headed “Growth of 48 built environment bacterial isolates on board the International Space Station (ISS).”

If this story was of interest, The Latest News has also reported about bacteria taking over the International Space Station:

“The astronauts and cosmonauts on board the International Space Station may be carrying out important experiments, but they are not the dominate life force (at least in terms of numbers). A new report has found that the bacteria taken onto the space station by the terrestrial travelers are now found in every nook and cranny.”

For more on this, see here.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.