Project MERCCURI: Bacteria in Space
Some bacteria grown in microgravity have previously been shown to exhibit different morphological and metabolic capabilities than when grown on Earth. As part of Project MERCCURI’s aim to increase microbiological outreach, we sampled at various high-population sporting venues and sites of historical interest nationwide for 48 strains of BSL 1 bacteria. After we grew these bacteria in culture, the 48 strains will be flown to the International Space Station to be “raced” against parallel plates on Earth. We will measure each well’s absorbance at 9 different points in each well, every 15 minutes for 96 hours, to compare growth curves generated by a recently installed microplate reader in the International Space Station to those on Earth. Future studies will focus on the bacterial strains that show differences in growth rates when exposed to the microgravity environment. Ultimately, not only do we aspire to expand current knowledge of microbiology in space, but we also intend to raise awareness and ignite the interest of the general population in microbiology and in science.