Biofilms in Space and in You.


Biofilms are groups of bacteria or fungi that stick together and to a surface. We find them in our bathroom tiles, our teeth, in hospitals and in spacecraft.  Biofilm growth has been observed in Russian and American space stations and the ISS, sometimes jeopardizing key equipment like spacesuits, water recycling units, radiators, and navigation windows. Biofilm formation also increases the risk of human illnesses and therefore needs to be well understood to enable safe, long-duration, human space missions. This new project is being supported by NASA to characterize biofilm formation inside the International Space Station in a controlled way, assessing changes in mass, thickness, and morphology. Different materials and surfaces will be used to search for potential solutions. The adhesion of bacteria to surfaces and therefore the initial biofilm formation is strongly governed by surface topography on the bacterial scale.

In collaboration with Dr. Zea, Orion’s Quest is offering teachers the opportunity to get their students directly involved in this exciting new research. Participating teachers will be provided with curriculum materials to help student understand Dr. Zea’s experiment.

Students participating in this mission supporting to work of Dr. Zea will view proprietary photos and data from the space-based and ground-based experiments in order to analyze the effects of microgravity and different substrates on the growth of biofilms.  Student data will be forwarded to Dr. Zea for possible inclusion in his database.

Recommended for grades 7-12.