European Space Agency Microbial Strain Collection

PI: Dr. Rüdiger Pukall

Planetary protection is the term that describes the aim of protecting solar system bodies from contamination by terrestrial life, and protecting Earth from possible life forms that may be returned from other solar system bodies. Regulations are based on obligations identified in the United Nations Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies, and advice provided by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). The necessary detection and enumeration of microbial contamination on spacecraft and in spacecraft assembly facilities is mainly based on classical cultivation methods. This gives an indication of the real bioburden, because only those microorganisms can be enumerated that are able to grow under the selected conditions; that are viable, cultivatable vegetative cells or spores.

The biodiversity of microbial communities on spaceflight hardware and in associated assembly facilities is evaluated in addition to the simple enumeration of microbial contamination to challenge new tools to assess, control and reduce the biological contamination, monitor the biological contamination control programme for controlled environments, and establish cross-contamination potential with scientific instruments on a spacecraft.


Selected references:

  1. Mhatre S, Singh NK, Wood JM, Parker CW, Pukall R, Verbarg S, Tindall BJ, Neumann-Schaal M, Venkateswaran K. (2020) Description of chloramphenicol resistant Kineococcus rubinsiae sp. nov. isolated from a spacecraft assembly facility.  Front Microbiol. 18;11:1957. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01957
  2. Seuylemezian A, Ott L, Wolf S, Fragante J, Yip O, Pukall R, Schumann P, Vaishampayan P. (2020). Bacillus glennii sp. nov. and Bacillus saganii sp. nov., isolated from the vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center where the Viking spacecraft were assembled. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 70(1):71-76. doi: 10.1099/ijsem.0.003714.
  3. Cockell CS, Schwendner P, Perras A, Rettberg P, Beblo-Vranesevic K, 
    Bohmeier M, Rabbow E, Moissl-Eichinger C, Wink L, Marteinsson V, Vannier P, 
    Gomez F, Garcia-Descalzo L, Ehrenfreund P, Monaghan EP, Westall F, 
    Gaboyer F, Amils R, Malki M, Pukall, R, Cabezas P, Walter N. (2018). Anaerobic microorganisms in astrobiological analogue environments: from field site to culture collection. Int J Astrobiol. 17 (4), 314-328.
  4. Koskinen K, Rettberg P, Pukall R, Auerbach A, Wink L, Barczyk S, Perras A, Mahnert A, Margheritis D, Kminek G, Moissl-Eichinger C. (2017). Microbial biodiversity assessment of the European Space Agency's ExoMars 2016 mission. Microbiome. 5(1):143. doi: 10.1186/s40168-017-0358-3.