Preprint Review Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Water and Microbial Monitoring Technologies towards the Near Future Space Exploration

Version 1 : Received: 30 September 2019 / Approved: 1 October 2019 / Online: 1 October 2019 (16:16:01 CEST)

How to cite: Amalfitano, S.; Levantesi, C.; Copetti , D.; Stefani, F.; Locantore, I.; Guranieri, V.; Lobascio, C.; Bersani, F.; Giacosa, D.; Detsis, E.; Rossetti, S. Water and Microbial Monitoring Technologies towards the Near Future Space Exploration. Preprints 2019, 2019100005 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201910.0005.v1). Amalfitano, S.; Levantesi, C.; Copetti , D.; Stefani, F.; Locantore, I.; Guranieri, V.; Lobascio, C.; Bersani, F.; Giacosa, D.; Detsis, E.; Rossetti, S. Water and Microbial Monitoring Technologies towards the Near Future Space Exploration. Preprints 2019, 2019100005 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201910.0005.v1).

Abstract

Space exploration is demanding longer lasting human missions and water resupply from Earth will become increasingly unrealistic. In a near future, the spacecraft water monitoring systems will require technological advances to promptly identify and counteract contingent events of waterborne microbial contamination, posing health risks to astronauts with lowered immune responsiveness. The search for bio-analytical approaches, alternative to those applied on Earth by cultivation-dependent methods, is pushed by the compelling need to limit waste disposal and avoid microbial regrowth from analytical carryovers. Prospective technologies will be selected only if first validated in a flight-like environment, by following basic principles, advantages, and limitations beyond their current applications on Earth. Starting from the water monitoring activities applied on the International Space Station, we provide a critical overview of the nucleic acid amplification-based approaches (i.e., loop-mediated isothermal amplification, quantitative PCR, and high-throughput sequencing) and early-warning methods for total microbial load assessments (i.e., ATP-metry, flow cytometry), already used at a high readiness level aboard crewed space vehicles. Our findings suggest that the forthcoming space applications of mature technologies will be necessarily bounded by a compromise between analytical performances (e.g., speed to results, identification depth, reproducibility, multiparametricity) and detrimental technical requirements (e.g., reagent usage, waste production, operator skills, crew time). As space exploration progresses toward extended missions to Moon and Mars, miniaturized systems that also minimize crew involvement in their end-to-end operation are likely applicable on the long-term and suitable for the in-flight water and microbiological research.

Subject Areas

International Space Station; space missions; biomonitoring; water biological contamination

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