Aug 11

Space is the place…to experiment

Bugs in Space – ATCC® Microbes are Go!

by Lauren Cracknell.

Students taking part in the ISSET programme at King’s College, London, have designed and prepared ‘micro-gravity experiments’ using ATCC’s Microbes. The intrepid microbes were launched into space on-board the Falcon 9 rocket and rendezvoused with the International Space Station on 5 June.

The aim of these experiments is to look at the impact of microgravity on bacteria. Results may potentially serve to improve patient health in clinical settings on Earth and could also be developed to improve human health and food sustainability in space. ATCC’s microbes were the ideal components for these experiments due to the diversified nature of their collection, which contains more than 18,000 well characterized strains.


A bit of background to the experiments can be found below:

  1. An experiment to determine the antibiotic properties of bacteriophages in microgravity

Bacteriophages are viruses that invade bacteria and have antibacterial properties. With increasing antibiotic resistance, bacteriophages offer an alternative approach to treating infections.

  1. An experiment to determine the growth of phosphate solubilising bacteria in microgravity

There is an abundance of inorganic phosphate on the surface of Mars; however plants would need it to be solubilised in order to grow. Phosphate solubilizing bacteria are able to achieve this solubilisation, but we do not yet know how effectively the bacteria will grow in microgravity. This experiment will compare growth of the bacteria (Pseudomonas putida) in microgravity compared to on earth.

  1. An experiment to determine the symbiotic relationship between simple plants and rhizobacteria in microgravity

Rhizobacteria are root-colonizing bacteria that form symbiotic relationships with many plants and are capable of solubilising phosphate. As an extension to experiment 2, this study will determine whether plant growth (grass) is actually increased by rhizobacteria in Space and how this compares to growth on Earth.

  1. An experiment to determine how ‘slime bacteria’ grow in microgravity

Chondromyces crocatus is a bacteria belonging to the Myxobacterial family.  This bacteria responds to a chemical signal by streaming together and producing a massive (relatively) fruitbody, which can be seen using a hand held lens. This experiment will determine whether fruit bodies are able to form the same way in microgravity as they do on Earth, which will provide important information about growth of micro-organisms in Space.

The International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET) works in partnership with some of the world’s leading space organisations to deliver unique learning opportunities for students of all ages.

Keep an eye on NASA’s ISS research page for results!

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