NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
The Biomolecule Sequencer Project: Nanopore Sequencing as a Dual-Use Tool for Crew Health and Astrobiology InvestigationsHuman missions to Mars will fundamentally transform how the planet is explored, enabling new scientific discoveries through more sophisticated sample acquisition and processing than can currently be implemented in robotic exploration. The presence of humans also poses new challenges, including ensuring astronaut safety and health and monitoring contamination. Because the capability to transfer materials to Earth will be extremely limited, there is a strong need for in situ diagnostic capabilities. Nucleotide sequencing is a particularly powerful tool because it can be used to: (1) mitigate microbial risks to crew by allowing identification of microbes in water, in air, and on surfaces; (2) identify optimal treatment strategies for infections that arise in crew members; and (3) track how crew members, microbes, and mission-relevant organisms (e.g., farmed plants) respond to conditions on Mars through transcriptomic and genomic changes. Sequencing would also offer benefits for science investigations occurring on the surface of Mars by permitting identification of Earth-derived contamination in samples. If Mars contains indigenous life, and that life is based on nucleic acids or other closely related molecules, sequencing would serve as a critical tool for the characterization of those molecules. Therefore, spaceflight-compatible nucleic acid sequencing would be an important capability for both crew health and astrobiology exploration. Advances in sequencing technology on Earth have been driven largely by needs for higher throughput and read accuracy. Although some reduction in size has been achieved, nearly all commercially available sequencers are not compatible with spaceflight due to size, power, and operational requirements. Exceptions are nanopore-based sequencers that measure changes in current caused by DNA passing through pores; these devices are inherently much smaller and require significantly less power than sequencers using other detection methods. Consequently, nanopore-based sequencers could be made flight-ready with only minimal modifications.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
John, K. K.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Botkin, D. S.
(JES Tech Houston, TX, United States)
Burton, A. S.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Castro-Wallace, S. L.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Chaput, J. D.
(California Univ. Irvine, CA, United States)
Dworkin, J. P.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Lehman, N.
(Portland State Univ. OR, United States)
Lupisella, M. L.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Mason, C. E.
(Cornell Univ. New York, NY, United States)
Smith, D. J.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Stahl, S
(Wyle Labs., Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Switzer, C.
(California Univ. Riverside, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
February 26, 2016
Publication Date
March 21, 2016
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference(The Woodlands, TX)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
No Preview Available