With the upcoming events of returning humans to the Moon and then to Mars, the study and application of food growth systems in space is becoming increasingly important. Beyond traditional plant-based ..
With the upcoming events of returning humans to the Moon and then to Mars, the study and application of food growth systems in space is becoming increasingly important. Beyond traditional plant-based food production, researchers are examining the ability to include cyanobacteria and/or microalgae production systems. These systems would be able to provide astronauts with fresh vitamin supplementation as well to efficiently fix carbon dioxide, supply oxygen, and recycle wastewater. However, these cultures must be maintained without contamination to ensure the safety of the crew and to prevent inefficiencies to the air and water filtration abilities of the microorganisms. On these extended missions in space, contamination events are very plausible so it becomes vital to understanding the effect on the photosynthetic organisms and how these events can be resolved. This work aims to use Chlorella vulgaris (a popular microalgae for space research) and Escherichia coli (a gram-negative bacteria that is found in the human gut) to simulate a contamination effect and study the competitive nature that ensues. More specifically, a mixed culture of the two microorganisms will be placed in simulated microgravity conditions followed by a series of assays to identify differences that occur. The experiments will utilize a spectrophotometer to identify chlorophyll concentration, microscopy for cell count changes, and image analysis software to measure colonies of C. vulgaris clumping together. Through this research, it will become possible to provide initial recommendations on handling contamination events in space while also giving insight into additional studies for space microbial ecology.