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Friday, June 23, 2017

“”ExoMars” washed clean, so as not to infect the red planet with deadly bacilli”


Spacecraft “ExoMars-2016”, as displayed on our interplanetary trajectory the launch vehicle “proton-M” on the night of Tuesday has separated from the upper stage “breeze-M” and began an independent mission to Mars. He’s carrying on its “shoulders” baby “Schiaparelli” – first European Mars lander. The long-awaited meeting with the red planet on a Russian-European program ExoMars project already scheduled for mid-October 2016. It is very important that it was friendly, without harm to each other. Few people know what measures had to resort earth microbiologists to observe all rules of Planetary protection, namely, to do everything to prevent the contamination of Mars terrestrial spore-forming bacteria. About how discouraged bacilli “Schiaparelli” an army of scientists and staff of the Baikonur cosmodrome, “MK” told in the SSC RF – Institute of biomedical problems RAS (IBMP RAS).


photo: youtube.com

Preparing for the meeting with the European space vehicle (SV) has started at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan a year before launch, in March 2015. In areas where there had to wait for flight of the Mars traveler, the specialists of the Department of Microbiology IMBP RAS taking tests, inoculated strains of microorganisms, including spore bacteria, theoretically able to survive in space flight, “stuck” to the orbital apparatus of the TGO and the lander “Schiaparelli” (named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli).

– In the room where before that was not carried out disinfection processing, from the point of view of Microbiology was quite dirty in some areas in one square meter area there were detected up to 106 colony forming units of microorganisms – says leading researcher of the Institute of Elena CHEAP.

The main goal of scientists was to destroy spore-forming bacteria of the genus Bacillus. They are able to survive in extreme conditions, which is and space. To choose which tool is better to kill “spies”, the experts have tried 15 different disinfectants, which according to the manufacturer can suppress the viability of different microorganisms. The tool is supposed to be a “thermonuclear” for the spore-forming bacteria, but at the same time, PH-neutral, so as not to harm the equipment and apparatus… the “final” came out two and one imported vehicle, of which the best was a domestic product.


March 2015 Microbiologists IBMP RAS Elena Cheap and Nikolai Polikarpov in sterile overalls inlets (devices for sampling of microbiological air samples) at Baikonur. Photo courtesy of E. Cheap

The Europeans, who also came to Baikonur in advance, first asked me to clean indoors, the area is four nine, all the ducts and replace the filters.

Filters there were about 800 pieces, explains Cheap, replace them and clean the ducts was not possible without stopping work at the site of Baikonur for almost a year. That’s why they chose an alternative method is to “burn” before you arrive “an important guest” room to the ceiling using four high-power pulsed xenon UV units, developed by Russian specialists. They were brought from Moscow and included after removing from the Assembly plant all employees. UV systems used before the arrival of the KA, in the future, they are not used enough disinfectant treatment. As a result of daily processing of all our cooperation, including FGUP “NPO im. S. A. Lavochkin”, Federal state unitary enterprise “TsENKI”, FSUE “Khrunichev them.M.In. Khrunichev” and us – SSC RF-IBMP RAS, reached the fact that the room had no spore-forming bacteria. Baikonur such purity has never seen. Staff TsENKI developed and agreed with all our cooperation the instructions to wash the floors and walls to a height of 2.5 meters with the use of disinfectant every day, starting a week before the arrival of European teams with the spacecraft.


Net tent for “Schiaparelli” at Baikonur

And when the Europeans arrived on December 22,… hid from all your TGO and “Schiaparelli” in built in our prepared room sterile tent with an area of about 25 square meters, and nobody but their employees were not allowed to go. And they entered there through a special gateway. The level of sterility was higher there. In the tent through the filter system, completely covering one wall, was supplied pure air. And I must say, if not for our thorough daily cleaning around, the filter might be stopped up there in a few days. The level of cleanliness of the external premises for which was answered by the Russian side, was four orders of magnitude higher than to build manned space vehicles.


So caring for messenger on Mars before sending

In addition to the cleanliness of walls, floors and surfaces of equipment, microbiologists were monitored and the purity of the air, which was obuvala the device to maintain normal temperature after installation in the fairing of the rocket.

– It’s original condition we were not satisfied, – says Elena Andreevna. – Employees had to change the filter in the car the temperature control, thus ensuring microbiological purity of the air stream.


So will be landing on Mars of the “Schiaparelli

Well, let’s wait and see how will Mars net lander. This “space” cleaning — good training for Russian specialists before the second phase of the project “Accomarca”, which is scheduled for 2018. However, here we are waiting for is infinitely more complex problems and ambitious events… Because there already will be landing on the Russian Mars landing module, which includes advanced scientific facilities boarding platform, fully developed by NGOs. S. A. Lavochkin, and the European Mars Rover, all the work to meet the requirements of planetary protection in the area of responsibility, primarily, of Russian specialists.

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