Molecular bacterial community composition was characterized from three geographically distinct spacecraft-associated clean rooms to determine whether such populations are influenced by the surrounding environment or the maintenance of the clean rooms. Samples were collected from facilities at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Kennedy Space Flight Center (KSC), and Johnson Space Center (JSC). Nine clone libraries representing different surfaces within the spacecraft facilities and three libraries from the surrounding air were created. Despite the highly desiccated, nutrient-bare conditions within these clean rooms, a broad diversity of bacteria was detected, covering all the main bacterial phyla. Furthermore, the bacterial communities were significantly different from each other, revealing only a small subset of microorganisms common to all locations (e.g. Sphingomonas, Staphylococcus). Samples from JSC assembly room surfaces showed the greatest diversity of bacteria, particularly within the Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria. The bacterial community structure of KSC assembly surfaces revealed a high presence of proteobacterial groups, whereas the surface samples collected from the JPL assembly facility showed a predominance of Firmicutes. Our study presents the first extended molecular survey and comparison of NASA spacecraft assembly facilities, and provides new insights into the bacterial diversity of clean room environments .
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