The Influence of Microbiology on Spacecraft Design and Controls: A Historical Perspective of the Shuttle and International Space Station Programs
For over 40 years, NASA has been putting humans safely into space in part by minimizing microbial risks to crew members. Success of the program to minimize such risks has resulted from a combination of engineering and design controls as well as active monitoring of the crew, food, water, hardware, and spacecraft interior. The evolution of engineering and design controls is exemplified by the implementation of HEPA filters for air treatment, antimicrobial surface materials, and the disinfection regimen currently used on board the International Space Station. Data from spaceflight missions confirm the effectiveness of current measures; however, fluctuations in microbial concentrations and trends in contamination events suggest the need for continued diligence in monitoring and evaluation as well as further improvements in engineering systems. The knowledge of microbial controls and monitoring from assessments of past missions will be critical in driving the design of future spacecraft.