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Project MERCCURI 'crowdsourced' space station samples take flight
Date:3/14/2014

s to see what kind of microbes are living aboard the laboratory.

"The very nature of the question is 'what effect does microgravity have on these organisms?' so the space station is pretty much the only option," said Coil. "The hope is that studies like this will be of use to future long-term manned space missions where people and their microbes will be sealed in together for a long time."

Microbes can be good or bad, providing much needed nutrients to the environment or leading to dangerous infections. Scientists at UC Davis transferred the swabs' samples to Petri dishes, incubating them to see which would grow into colonies. Researchers identified hundreds of bacteria from the public collections, selecting 48 to send into space.

"My favorite sample is probably the unknown species that was collected by some youth cheerleaders in San Diego," said Coil. "One of the bacteria we grew up from that sample appears to be a whole new genus and species which we're in the process of describing...and of course that bacteria will be on this mission [to the space station]."

The project makes use of the NanoRacks Plate Reader facility during operations aboard the space station. This facility allows researchers to compare the growth of the samples in space and on the ground simultaneously.

Once aboard the station, these colonies will grow in the microgravity environment of space, which may help lead to a better understanding of the nature of the bacteria. "Scientifically, it's important to know how various microbes behave in space, before sealing people and their microbes up for a long time and sending them off to Mars," said Coil. "The swabs from the space station will be analyzed for a simple understanding of what is living there. The 'microbial playoffs' with the 48 bacteria is to ask the question 'how does the growth of these bacteria differ between microgravity and on Earth.' We will run a duplicate of the station experiments on th
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Contact: Laura Niles
Laura.E.Niles@nasa.gov
281-244-7069
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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