Atmospheric entry simulations of Mars lander bioload — experiments in support of Beagle 2

Sancisi-Frey, Suzanne; Spry, J. Andry; Garry, James and Pillinger, Judith M. (2006). Atmospheric entry simulations of Mars lander bioload — experiments in support of Beagle 2. Research in Microbiology, 157(1) pp. 25–29.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resmic.2005.09.013

Abstract

Simulations of the temperature and vacuum effects of Martian atmospheric entry upon Bacillus atrophaeus (formerly Bacillus subtilis var niger; 8058; NCIMB) endospores were carried out inside a purpose-built vacuum chamber. The work formed part of the study in support of planetary protection for the Beagle 2 Mars lander and investigated to what extent the outer surface of the lander's back heat shield would be sterilised during Mars atmospheric entry. The spores were heated to peak temperatures up to 300 degrees C over 30 s under vacuum conditions (10(-3) mbar). There was no effect on spore viability until peak temperatures reached 180-200 degrees C (12-15 s of heat exposure). Spore viability then fell rapidly with increasing temperature. Once peak temperatures exceeded 300 degrees C, no further spore viability was detected. The average heating rate was rapid (10 degrees C s(-1)); thus spores were exposed to peak temperatures for less than a second. These data inform on the process of determining bioburden reduction and control steps necessary for external surfaces of spacecraft which are non-sterile at launch, as well as providing new information about the ability of a model resistant organism to survive rapid, short-duration heating. (C) 2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.

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