Home > Smart Living > Innovation > Scientists will send microbes to space to observe their growth

Scientists will send microbes to space to observe their growth

To improve understanding of how low gravity affects development of microorganisms, Oregon State University scientists have partnered with Nasa to send specimens to space

To improve understanding of how gravity affects microbial growth, scientists are sending specimens to space. (REUTERS)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 28.11.2023  |  06:00 PM IST

To better understand how gravity affects microbial growth, researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) have partnered with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) to send specimens to the International Space Station (ISS).

The $525,000 (around 4,37,50,000) project, funded National Science Foundation project, will focus on understanding how biofilms—aggregates of microbes that stick to each other and to surfaces—develop in “partially and variably water-saturated porous media." In this scenario, scientists will examine how they develop on damp soil and rocks where water is non-uniformly distributed and hence, not always accessible to microbes, OSU’s press statement explains.


Also read: Week in tech: James Webb Space Telescope spots ‘galactic teenagers'

The scientists aim to launch the samples to the space station through the space shuttle in late summer 2025. They are planning on getting astronauts at the station to perform some of the tests which will be live-communicated to them.

The research conducted on the ISS will also provide opportunities to explore 3D objects when the samples are scanned on Earth. This will allow for comparison between biofilms grown in the presence or absence of gravity. The 3D scans will also give viewers the feeling of flying through the object, one of the scientists, Dorthe Wildenschild, said in the statement. 

Moreover, in-depth knowledge about how biofilms develop in different environments “has societal impacts on Earth through a range of applications," such as groundwater remediation, water treatment, and soil and agricultural science, the researchers said in the statement.

New information about biofilms grown in low gravity can improve understanding of changes in microbial behaviour in space that can affect engineered systems, as well as human health on crewed spaceflights.

This is not the first time scientists will be sending microorganisms to space. In 2018, scientists sent six broccoli seeds to space aboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft to find a way for astronauts at the ISS to grow their own vegetables. Three of the seeds travelled to space as is, while the other three were coated with two different species of bacteria, developed at the University of Washington. 

The aim was to examine whether good bacteria could help plants grow better in extremely low-gravity environments, and where nutrients or water could be lacking, the university’s press statement explained.


view all

Also read: Global warming intensifies heavy rain even more than expected: Study