NASA scientists have continuously performed routine environmental monitoring of the air, surfaces, and water systems of the International Space Station (ISS). Surface sample collection began in 2000 (Expedition 1), air sample collection began in 2001 (Expedition 2) and water monitoring of the U.S. potable water system has occurred since the installation of the potable water dispenser (PWD) in 2009 (Expedition 20). The specific objectives of the air, water, and surface sampling are:
1. To ensure that the air quality is microbiologically safe for crewmembers and to ensure compliance with existing acceptability limits established for microbial air sampling.
2. To ensure a microbiologically safe environment for crewmembers and to ensure compliance with existing acceptability limits established for microbial surface sampling.
3. To check for the presence of microbial contaminants in the potable water provided for crew use on the ISS and verify compliance with established water quality requirements.
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Samples were collected and enumerated during space flight operations. Identification of these isolates occurs on samples returned to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Microbiology Laboratory. The organisms have been identified as either being collected from air and surfaces or the potable water dispenser. Samples were collected in the following U.S. ISS Modules: Node 1, Node 2, Node 3, U.S. Laboratory, and the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM).
Bacteria from surface and air samples are isolated on Tryptic Soy Agar for identification. Bacteria were isolated from water samples on the ISS using a filtration unit, the Microbial Capture Device (MCD) which contains an R3A medium. Bacteria are also isolated from water samples returned from the ISS to JSC in an archive water bag. Samples are processed using an R2A medium. Identification of bacteria was performed using either a VITEK Identification System (bioMérieux) or 16S genetic analysis.
The JSC Microbiology Laboratory has several isolates collected and identified during the microbial monitoring efforts available for research evaluation. Several types of microorganisms have been identified multiple times during sampling and are available for evaluation as a time course indicated as early, mid, and late in the life of the ISS. It is important to note that microbial identifications were performed during ground processing of samples returned from space flight. Further characterization was not performed. A partial list of microbial isolates collected can be downloaded for review and requested for further research.
Castro VA, Thrasher AN, Healy M, Ott CM, Pierson DL. Microbial characterization during the early habitation of the International Space Station. Microb Ecol
, 2004; 47(2):119-26.
Pierson DL, Ott CM, et al. Microbial Monitoring of the International Space Station. In: Moldenhauer J, Ed. Environmental Monitoring: A Comprehensive Handbook. River Grove, IL: DHI Publishing; 2012:1-27.
Bacterial isolates, air
Bacterial isolates, surfaces
Bacterial isolates, water
Colony forming units
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health
and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration.
Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity,
and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors,
and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify
the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific
Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.
The Human Research Roadmap is located at: https://humanresearchroadmap.nasa.gov/
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for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.