To sustain human deep space exploration or extra-terrestrial settlements where no resupply from the Earth or other planets is possible, technologies for in situ food production, water, air, and waste recovery need to be
developed. The Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) is such a Regenerative Life Support System (RLSS) and it builds on several bacterial bioprocesses. However, alterations in gravity,
temperature, and radiation associated with the space environment can affect survival and functionality of the microorganisms. In this study, representative strains of different carbon and nitrogen metabolisms with
application in the MELiSSA were selected for launch and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) exposure. An edible photoautotrophic strain (Arthrospira sp. PCC 8005), a photoheterotrophic strain (Rhodospirillum rubrum
S1H), a ureolytic heterotrophic strain (Cupriavidus pinatubonensis 1245), and combinations of C. pinatubonensis 1245 and autotrophic ammonia and nitrite oxidizing strains (Nitrosomonas europaea ATCC19718,
Nitrosomonas ureae Nm10, and Nitrobacter winogradskyi Nb255) were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) for 7 days. There, the samples were exposed to 2.8 mGy, a dose 140 times higher than on the
Earth, and a temperature of 22°C – 1°C. On return to the Earth, the cultures were reactivated and their growth and activity were compared with terrestrial controls stored under refrigerated (5°C – 2°C) or room temperature (22°C – 1°C and 21°C – 0°C) conditions. Overall, no difference was observed between terrestrial and ISS samples. Most cultures presented lower cell viability after the test, regardless of the type of exposure, indicating a harsher effect of the storage and sample preparation than the spaceflight itself. Postmission analysis revealed the successful survival and proliferation of all cultures except for Arthrospira, which
suffered from the premission depressurization test. These observations validate the possibility of launching, storing, and reactivating bacteria with essential functionalities for microbial bioprocesses in RLSS.