Water Microbiological Monitoring (WMM)

WMM Hardware Setup


Water provided for crew consumption has either been launched from the ground or produced in flight by the recycling of humidity condensate. Ground water can be tested for microbial contaminants (such as fungi and bacteria) before launch, but potable water produced on-orbit must also be analyzed. In the past, this analysis has been done in Earth-based laboratories after the completion of the mission. Having the capability of conducting the analysis during the mission will give both the crew and researchers feedback about the quality of the water in a more timely manner, necessary to support future International Space Station (ISS) missions.

This investigation demonstrated the operation of the ISS Crew Health Care System (CheCS) water sampling hardware, which was designed to monitor, identify, and quantify waterborne microorganisms present in spacecraft potable water systems.

Shuttle-Mir Missions

Three water sources were evaluated during the NASA-3 and 4 missions; hot water from the main water dispenser, cold water from the main water dispenser and water from the rodick dispenser. The crewmember collected water from each source and, using a syringe pump assembly, processed a known volume of each through a microbial capture device (MCD). A growth medium was then introduced into each MCD. Each MCD was then incubated at 25 to 37 degrees Celcius to promote bacterial and/or fungal growth.

On the second and fifth days following the initial collection, the crewmember visually observed and photographed the MCDs. During the visual examination of each MCD, a bacterial colony count was performed and compared to a provided density comparison card. Findings were recorded on data recording sheets and on the MCD itself. The MCD's were returned to the incubator after the first examination, and were stowed in returning kits for return to Earth and further analysis after the second examination.

Post mission, crewmembers commented that the Water Experiment Kits (WEK) were well designed and well suited for space flight application. All hardware performed as expected. MCD data from all water samples were found to be within both United States and Russian standards of quality.

Lofton R, Conley C. International Space Station Phase 1 Risk Mitigation and Technology Demonstration Experiments. 48th International Astronautical Congress. October 6-10, 1997, Turin, Italy.

Principal Investigators
Duane Pierson, Ph.D.
NASA Johnson Space Center

Natalia Novikova
Institute of Biomedical Problems

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Page last updated: 07/16/1999