Are NASA’s “Clean Rooms” Completely Microbe-Free?

At NASA, all systems are go for human exploration of Mars, possibly as soon as the 2030s. Scientists say that the planet has conditions suitable for life -- now or in the past. The last thing NASA wants to do is contaminate the planet with bacteria from Earth. So the space agency is super-serious about maintaining clean work areas, from workers in full-body sterile suits to state-of-the-art air filtration. And all surfaces are regularly doused with industrial solvents. However, a new study published in the journal Astrobiology has identified types of bacteria that actually feed on these solvents.

Bacteria that can't be beaten:

  • The most virulent microbe in this community of super-hardy bacteria is known as Acinetobacter. The researchers have suggested that the bacteria could actually use cleaning products as sources of energy.
  • Acinetobacter strains are not fazed by hydrogen peroxide, the chemical used in bleaches, detergents, and disinfectants. “There’s no such thing as 100 percent sterility,” the scientists concluded.
  • Acinetobacter has been identified on the Mars Odyssey orbiter, on the floors where the Mars Phoenix lander was built, and even on the exterior of the International Space Station.
More Info: The Atlantic

Discussion Comments


Wow! I can hardly wait to know more about Mars.

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