Microbes survive 553-day ordeal outside ISS

August 24th, 2010 - 7:36 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Aug 24 (ANI): Bacteria taken from cliffs at Beer on the South Coast have been found alive even after being put in hostile conditions of a space station above the Earth’s atmosphere for a year and half.

The bugs were put on the exterior of the space station to see their coping power in the above the Earth’s atmosphere.

The experiment is part of a quest to find microbes that could be useful to future astronauts who venture beyond low-Earth orbit to explore the rest of the Solar System.

“It has been proposed that bacteria could be used in life-support systems to recycle everything,” BBC News quoted OU researcher Karen Olsson-Francis as saying.

“There is also the concept that if we were to develop bases on the Moon or Mars, we could use bacteria for ‘bio-mining’ - using them to extract important minerals from rocks,” he said.

The microbes were placed on the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Technology Exposure Facility, a collection of experimental boxes at the end of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Columbus Laboratory.

The bacteria were sent up still sitting on, and in, small chunks of cliff rock.

The bugs have been classified simply as OU-20. However, they resemble closely a group of cyanobacteria known as Gloeocapsa.

“Gloeocapsa forms a colony of multiple cells that probably protects cells in the centre to exposure from UV radiation and provides some desiccation resistance as well,” explained Charles Cockell of OU’s Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute.

Olsson-Francis said, “We could send up the spores of known ‘extremophiles’ and we can be pretty sure they will survive because we know already they’re really resistant.

“Whereas in this case, we just used a community to select for these organisms. These are just everyday organisms that live on the coast in Beer in Devon and they can survive in space.”

The Beer rock was launched to the ISS in 2008. (ANI)

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