Microbial characterization of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and its encapsulation facility

Environ Microbiol. 2003 Oct;5(10):977-85. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-2920.2003.00496.x.


Microbial characterization of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and the Kennedy Space Center Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility II (SAEF-II) was carried out by both culture-based and molecular methods. The most dominant cultivable microbes were species of Bacillus, with comamonads, microbacteria and actinomycetales also represented. Several spore-forming isolates were resistant to gamma-radiation, UV, H2O2 and desiccation, and one Acinetobacter radioresistens isolate and several Aureobasidium, isolated directly from the spacecraft, survived various conditions. Sequences arising in clone libraries were fairly consistent between the spacecraft and facility; predominant genera included Variovorax, Ralstonia and Aquaspirillum. This study improves our understanding of the microbial community structure, diversity and survival capabilities of microbes in an encapsulation facility and physically associated with colocated spacecraft.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / classification
  • Actinomycetales / genetics
  • Actinomycetales / isolation & purification*
  • Actinomycetales / metabolism
  • Bacillus / classification
  • Bacillus / genetics
  • Bacillus / isolation & purification*
  • Bacillus / metabolism
  • Cosmic Radiation
  • DNA, Ribosomal / analysis
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Extraterrestrial Environment
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Mars*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oxidants / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Spacecraft*
  • Spores, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Spores, Fungal / isolation & purification
  • United States
  • United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration


  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Oxidants
  • Hydrogen Peroxide