A microorganism was isolated from the surfaces of the cleanroom facility in which the Phoenix lander was assembled. The isolated bacterial strain was subjected to a comprehensive polyphasic analysis to characterize its taxonomic position. Both phenotypic and phylogenetic analyses clearly indicate that this isolate belongs to the genus Paenibacillus and represents a novel species.

Bacillus spores have been utilized to assess the degree and level of microbiological contamination on spacecraft and their associated spacecraft assembly facilities. Spores of Bacillus species are of particular concern to planetary protection due to the extreme resistance of some members of the genus to space environmental conditions such as UV and gamma radiation, vacuum, oxidation, and temperature fluctuation. These resistive spore phenotypes have enhanced potential for transfer, and subsequent proliferation, of terrestrial microbes on another solar body. Due to decreased nutrient conditions within spacecraft assembly facility clean rooms, the vegetative cells of Bacillus species and other spore-forming Paenibacillus species are induced to sporulate, thereby enhancing their survivability of bioreduction/sterilization technologies. The spores of P. phoenicis, due to their possible resistance to multiple environmental perturbations, may be a more appropriate biological indicator than those currently in use.

This work was done by James N. Benardini, Parag A. Vaishampayan, and Kasthuri J. Venkateswaran of Caltech; Shariff Osman of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Masataka Satomi of the Japanese National Research Institute for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47232