Farmer in the Sky

Author: Catherine Smith, M.S. Entomology, Molecular Biologist, Cambridge Technologies

Abstract Background: The International Space Station has a history of unexpected microbial hitchhikers. Additionally, astrobiological experiments with the EXPOSE-R platform have illustrated the survivability of various extremophiles in what were once considered unsurvivable conditions. The documented tendency of microgravity to induce biofilm production in prokaryotes, with its increased resistance to chemical sterilization is also of concern. Given the goal of increased human presence in enclosed microgravity environments, what are the approaches to control hitchhikers currently in use, and what other options are available?

Abstract Objectives: With the limitations on chemical usage in a microgravity habitat, how do we develop an effective integrated biological management program for that system?

Abstract Methods: This talk will consider approaching the issue of terrestrial hitchhikers in microgravity from an integrated pest management angle rather than an exclusively quarantine angle. Using methodologies developed in agricultural production systems, it is possible that a multi-prong approach that accepts that it cannot eliminate hitchhiking organisms but instead tries to manage them would be a better long-term solution.

Abstract Results: Current efforts to control the microbial populations on the ISS are considered, along with current practices in terrestrial integrated pest management and how those could potentially be translated for future applications in microgravity.

Abstract Conclusions: It is concluded that current practices are exploring more options, but that we need to expand our efforts if we want to have healthy long term microgravity environments.