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Microbial Ecology of a Crewed Rover Traverse in the Arctic: Low Microbial Dispersal and Implications for Planetary Protection on Human Mars MissionsBetween April 2009 and July 2011, the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) led the Northwest Passage Drive Expedition (NWPDX), a multi-staged long-distance crewed rover traverse along the Northwest Passage in the Arctic. In April 2009, the HMP Okarian rover was driven 496 km over sea ice along the Northwest Passage, from Kugluktuk to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada. During the traverse, crew members collected samples from within the rover and from undisturbed snow-covered surfaces around the rover at three locations. The rover samples and snow samples were stored at subzero conditions (-20C to -1C) until processed for microbial diversity in labs at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The objective was to determine the extent of microbial dispersal away from the rover and onto undisturbed snow. Interior surfaces of the rover were found to be associated with a wide range of bacteria (69 unique taxa) and fungi (16 unique taxa). In contrast, snow samples from the upwind, downwind, uptrack, and downtrack sample sites exterior to the rover were negative for both bacteria and fungi except for two colony-forming units (cfus) recovered from one downwind (1 cfu; site A4) and one uptrack (1 cfu; site B6) sample location. The fungus, Aspergillus fumigatus (GenBank JX517279), and closely related bacteria in the genus Brevibacillus were recovered from both snow (B. agri, GenBank JX517278) and interior rover surfaces. However, it is unknown whether the microorganisms were deposited onto snow surfaces at the time of sample collection (i.e., from the clothing or skin of the human operator) or via airborne dispersal from the rover during the 12-18 h layovers at the sites prior to collection. Results support the conclusion that a crewed rover traveling over previously undisturbed terrain may not significantly contaminate the local terrain via airborne dispersal of propagules from the vehicle. Key Words: Planetary protection-Contamination-Habitability-Haughton Crater-Mars. Astrobiology 15, 478-491.
Document ID
20150020808
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Authors
Schuerger, Andrew C. (Florida Univ. Cape Kennedy, FL, United States)
Lee, Pascal (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Inst. Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
November 4, 2015
Publication Date
June 3, 2015
Publication Information
Publication: Astrobiology
Volume: 15
Issue: 6
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Space Sciences (General)
Report/Patent Number
ARC-E-DAA-TN26321
Funding Number(s)
CONTRACT_GRANT: NNX08AO59A
CONTRACT_GRANT: NNX08AQ81A
CONTRACT_GRANT: SAA2401923
CONTRACT_GRANT: NNX12AJ84G
WBS: WBS 811073
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other
Keywords
Human Mars Missions