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High-Speed Test To Improve Pathogen Decontamination Developed

A chemist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has developed a technology intended to rapidly assess any presence of microbial life on spacecraft. This new method may also help the military test for disease-causing bacteria, such as a causative agent for anthrax, and may also be useful in the medical, pharmaceutical and other fields.

Adrian Ponce, the deputy manager for JPL's planetary science section, devised the new microscope-based method, which has the potential to quickly validate -- from days to minutes -- a spacecraft's cleanliness.

NASA adheres to international protocols by striving to ensure that spacecraft don't harbor life from Earth that could contaminate other planets or moons and skew science research. Microbes known as bacterial endospores can withstand extreme temperatures, ultraviolet rays and chemical treatments, and have been known to survive in space for six years. This resilience makes them important indicators for cleanliness and biodefense, Ponce said.
 
 

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