SpaceX resupply mission CRS-25 has just launched to the International Space Station, carrying soil samples into space. The soil samples are for the DynaMoS experiment, which aims to investigate the Dynamics of Microbiomes in Space.
Here on Earth, soil microbes carry out important life support functions, including cycling of carbon and other nutrients, degrading pollutants, and supporting plant growth. DynaMoS Principal Investigator Dr. Janet Jansson calls them “the hidden players of life support system on Earth.” But given how vital they are, we know very little about them.
Recent research has shown that they are affected by climate change and other environmental changes, and DynaMoS will explore how they are affected by the different conditions in space, including microgravity, altered carbon dioxide levels, and radiation.
The experiment involves a community of eight different bacterial species obtained from a soil field station at Prosser in Washington State. Soil from the same location has been sterilized and will be inoculated with the chosen species for the experiment, which work together to decompose chitin, a large polysaccharide made from chains of modified glucose. Chitin is the second most abundant natural polysaccharide, found in tough materials, including the exoskeletons of insects, the cell walls of fungi, and some hard structures in invertebrates and fish. Chitin is a complex polymer and is difficult for one organism to degrade.
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