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1.  Resistance of Bacterial Endospores to Outer Space for Planetary Protection Purposes—Experiment PROTECT of the EXPOSE-E Mission 
Astrobiology  2012;12(5):445-456.
Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern in the context of planetary protection because their tough endospores may withstand certain sterilization procedures as well as the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. To test their hardiness on a hypothetical mission to Mars, spores of Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 were exposed for 1.5 years to selected parameters of space in the experiment PROTECT during the EXPOSE-E mission on board the International Space Station. Mounted as dry layers on spacecraft-qualified aluminum coupons, the “trip to Mars” spores experienced space vacuum, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation, and temperature fluctuations, whereas the “stay on Mars” spores were subjected to a simulated martian environment that included atmospheric pressure and composition, and UV and cosmic radiation. The survival of spores from both assays was determined after retrieval. It was clearly shown that solar extraterrestrial UV radiation (λ≥110 nm) as well as the martian UV spectrum (λ≥200 nm) was the most deleterious factor applied; in some samples only a few survivors were recovered from spores exposed in monolayers. Spores in multilayers survived better by several orders of magnitude. All other environmental parameters encountered by the “trip to Mars” or “stay on Mars” spores did little harm to the spores, which showed about 50% survival or more. The data demonstrate the high chance of survival of spores on a Mars mission, if protected against solar irradiation. These results will have implications for planetary protection considerations. Key Words: Planetary protection—Bacterial spores—Space experiment—Simulated Mars mission. Astrobiology 12, 445–456.
PMCID: PMC3371261  PMID: 22680691
2.  Astrobiology and Society: Building an Interdisciplinary Research Community 
Astrobiology  2012;12(10):958-965.
This paper reports recent efforts to gather experts from the humanities and social sciences along with astrobiologists to consider the cultural, societal, and psychological implications of astrobiology research and exploration. We began by convening a workshop to draft a research roadmap on astrobiology's societal implications and later formed a Focus Group on Astrobiology and Society under the auspices of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). Just as the Astrobiology Science Roadmap and various astrobiology science focus groups have helped researchers orient and understand their work across disciplinary contexts, our intent was to apply the same approach to examine areas beyond the physical and life sciences and expand interdisciplinary interaction and scholarly understanding. These efforts continue as an experiment in progress, with an open invitation to interested researchers—astrobiologists as well as scholars in the humanities and social sciences—to become involved in research, analysis, and proactive discussions concerning the potential impacts of astrobiology on society as well as the possible impacts of society on progress in astrobiology. Key Words: Astrobiology—Extraterrestrial life—Life detection. Astrobiology 12, 958–965.
PMCID: PMC3484766  PMID: 23046203
3.  Halorubrum chaoviator sp. nov., a haloarchaeon isolated from sea salt in Baja California, Mexico, Western Australia and Naxos, Greece 
Three halophilic isolates, strains Halo-G*T, AUS-1 and Naxos II, were compared. Halo-G* was isolated from an evaporitic salt crystal from Baja California, Mexico, whereas AUS-1 and Naxos II were isolated from salt pools in Western Australia and the Greek island of Naxos, respectively. Halo-G*T had been exposed previously to conditions of outer space and survived 2 weeks on the Biopan facility. Chemotaxonomic and molecular comparisons suggested high similarity between the three strains. Phylogenetic analysis based on the 16S rRNA gene sequences revealed that the strains clustered with Halorubrum species, showing sequence similarities of 99.2–97.1 %. The DNA–DNA hybridization values of strain Halo-G*T and strains AUS-1 and Naxos II are 73 and 75 %, respectively, indicating that they constitute a single species. The DNA relatedness between strain Halo-G*T and the type strains of 13 closely related species of the genus Halorubrum ranged from 39 to 2 %, suggesting that the three isolates constitute a different genospecies. The G+C content of the DNA of the three strains was 65.5–66.5 mol%. All three strains contained C20C20 derivatives of diethers of phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidylglyceromethylphosphate and phosphatidylglycerolsulfate, together with a sulfated glycolipid. On the basis of these results, a novel species that includes the three strains is proposed, with the name Halorubrum chaoviator sp. nov. The type strain is strain Halo-G*T (=DSM 19316T =NCIMB 14426T =ATCC BAA-1602T).
PMCID: PMC3182535  PMID: 19567575
4.  Space Microbiology 
Summary: The responses of microorganisms (viruses, bacterial cells, bacterial and fungal spores, and lichens) to selected factors of space (microgravity, galactic cosmic radiation, solar UV radiation, and space vacuum) were determined in space and laboratory simulation experiments. In general, microorganisms tend to thrive in the space flight environment in terms of enhanced growth parameters and a demonstrated ability to proliferate in the presence of normally inhibitory levels of antibiotics. The mechanisms responsible for the observed biological responses, however, are not yet fully understood. A hypothesized interaction of microgravity with radiation-induced DNA repair processes was experimentally refuted. The survival of microorganisms in outer space was investigated to tackle questions on the upper boundary of the biosphere and on the likelihood of interplanetary transport of microorganisms. It was found that extraterrestrial solar UV radiation was the most deleterious factor of space. Among all organisms tested, only lichens (Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans) maintained full viability after 2 weeks in outer space, whereas all other test systems were inactivated by orders of magnitude. Using optical filters and spores of Bacillus subtilis as a biological UV dosimeter, it was found that the current ozone layer reduces the biological effectiveness of solar UV by 3 orders of magnitude. If shielded against solar UV, spores of B. subtilis were capable of surviving in space for up to 6 years, especially if embedded in clay or meteorite powder (artificial meteorites). The data support the likelihood of interplanetary transfer of microorganisms within meteorites, the so-called lithopanspermia hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC2832349  PMID: 20197502
5.  Effect of Shadowing on Survival of Bacteria under Conditions Simulating the Martian Atmosphere and UV Radiation▿ †  
Spacecraft-associated spores and four non-spore-forming bacterial isolates were prepared in Atacama Desert soil suspensions and tested both in solution and in a desiccated state to elucidate the shadowing effect of soil particulates on bacterial survival under simulated Martian atmospheric and UV irradiation conditions. All non-spore-forming cells that were prepared in nutrient-depleted, 0.2-μm-filtered desert soil (DSE) microcosms and desiccated for 75 days on aluminum died, whereas cells prepared similarly in 60-μm-filtered desert soil (DS) microcosms survived such conditions. Among the bacterial cells tested, Microbacterium schleiferi and Arthrobacter sp. exhibited elevated resistance to 254-nm UV irradiation (low-pressure Hg lamp), and their survival indices were comparable to those of DS- and DSE-associated Bacillus pumilus spores. Desiccated DSE-associated spores survived exposure to full Martian UV irradiation (200 to 400 nm) for 5 min and were only slightly affected by Martian atmospheric conditions in the absence of UV irradiation. Although prolonged UV irradiation (5 min to 12 h) killed substantial portions of the spores in DSE microcosms (∼5- to 6-log reduction with Martian UV irradiation), dramatic survival of spores was apparent in DS-spore microcosms. The survival of soil-associated wild-type spores under Martian conditions could have repercussions for forward contamination of extraterrestrial environments, especially Mars.
PMCID: PMC2258572  PMID: 18083857
6.  Methanol-Oxidizing Bacteria Used as an Index of Soil Methane Content 
A problem currently encountered by government agencies concerned with environmental health and safety is the determination of the methane content of soil in and around sanitary landfills. The feasibility of using methanol-oxidizing bacteria (methylotrophs) as an index of the methane content of soils from sanitary landfills was tested in this study. A statistically significant correlation was shown to exist between the methane content of soil and the number of methanol-oxidizing bacteria in soil.
PMCID: PMC243964  PMID: 16345817
7.  Airborne Bacteria in an Urban Environment 
Samples were taken at random intervals over a 2-year period from urban air and tested for viable bacteria. The number of bacteria in each sample was determined, and each organism isolated was identified by its morphological and biochemical characteristics. The number of bacteria found ranged from 0.013 to 1.88 organisms per liter of air sampled. Representatives of 19 different genera were found in 21 samples. The most frequently isolated organisms and their percent of occurence were Micrococcus (41%), Staphylococcus (11%), and Aerococcus (8%). The bacteria isolated were correlated with various weather and air pollution parameters using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient method. Statistically significant correlations were found between the number of viable bacteria isolated and the concentrations of nitric oxide (−0.45), nitrogen dioxide (+0.43), and suspended particulate pollutants (+0.56). Calculated individually, the total number of Micrococcus, Aerococcus, and Staphylococcus, number of rods, and number of cocci isolated showed negative correlations with nitric oxide and positive correlations with nitrogen dioxide and particulates. Statistically significant positive correlations were found between the total number of rods isolated and the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (+0.54) and the percent relative humidity (+0.43). The other parameters tested, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and temperature, showed no significant correlations.
PMCID: PMC242990  PMID: 677875

Results 1-7 (7)