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Survival of microorganisms in space protected by meteorite material: Results of the experiment 'EXOBIOLOGIE' of the PERSEUS mission


Wänke,  H.
Cosmochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Rettberg, P., Eschweiler, U., Strauch, K., Reitz, G., Horneck, G., Wänke, H., et al. (2002). Survival of microorganisms in space protected by meteorite material: Results of the experiment 'EXOBIOLOGIE' of the PERSEUS mission. In Space Life Sciences: Extraterrestrial Organic Chemistry, UV Radiation on Biological Evolution, and Planetary Protection (pp. 1539-1545). Oxford: Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-9214-A
During the early evolution of life on Earth, before the formation of a protective ozone layer in the atmosphere, high intensities of solar UV radiation of short wavelengths could reach the surface of the Earth. Today the full spectrum of solar UV radiation is only experienced in space, where other important space parameters influence survival and genetic stability additionly, like vacuum, cosmic radiation, temperature extremes, microgravity. To reach a better understanding of the processes leading to the origin, evolution and distribution of life we have performed space experiments with microorganisms. The ability of resistant life forms like bacterial spores to survive high doses of extraterrestrial solar UV alone or in combination with other space parameters, e.g. vacuum, was investigated. Extraterrestrial solar UV was found to have a thousand times higher biological effectiveness than UV radiation filtered by stratospheric ozone concentrations found today on Earth. The protective effects of anorganic substances like artificial or real meteorites were determined on the MIR station. In the experiment EXOBIOLOGIE of the French PERSEUS mission (1999) it was found that very thin layers of anorganic material did not protect spores against the deleterious effects of energy-rich UV radiation in space to the expected amount, but that layers of UV radiation inactivated spores serve as a UV-shield by themselves, so that a hypothetical interplanetary transfer of life by the transport of microorganisms inside rocks through the solar system cannot be excluded, but requires the shielding of a substantial mass of anorganic substances. (C) 2002 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.