October 1, 2017.
The Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group (BPPG) at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) focuses on avoiding forward and backward contamination between Earth and extraterrestrial bodies, ensuring that planetary bodies can be studied in their natural state in the future. This endeavor involves sampling organisms from Mars bound spacecraft during assembly, testing, and launch operations, archiving the organisms for long-term storage, and identifying the organisms through MALDI-TOF (matrix-assisted laser desorption and ionization time of flight) mass spectrometry. Because the MALDI-TOF database is primarily composed of clinical samples, it is necessary to continuously update the database with isolates collected from Marsbound spacecraft to make future identification efforts at BPPG easier. During this internship, efforts were made to continue updating the in-house MALDI-TOF database by studying microbial samples taken from spacecraft hardware and flight facilities. In addition, novel organisms from spacecraft required further biochemical and taxonomical identification, 16S rRNA sequencing, and addition of new spectral profiles to the MALDI database. These efforts culminated in a more comprehensive JPL in-house database, the characterization of several novel organisms, and the proper identification and storage of numerous microbial samples in accordance to BPPG standards.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program under Grant # 1418852. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research was also made possible by the California State University STEM Teacher and Researcher Program, in partnership with Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org) and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.