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Survival of Spores of Trichoderma longibrachiatum in Space: data from the Space Experiment SPORES on EXPOSE-R

  • Katja Neuberger (a1), Astrid Lux-Endrich (a1), Corinna Panitz (a2) (a3) and Gerda Horneck (a2)

In the space experiment ‘Spores in artificial meteorites’ (SPORES), spores of the fungus Trichoderma longibrachiatum were exposed to low-Earth orbit for nearly 2 years on board the EXPOSE-R facility outside of the International Space Station. The environmental conditions tested in space were: space vacuum at 10−7–10−4 Pa or argon atmosphere at 105 Pa as inert gas atmosphere, solar extraterrestrial ultraviolet (UV) radiation at λ > 110 nm or λ > 200 nm with fluences up to 5.8 × 108 J m−2, cosmic radiation of a total dose range from 225 to 320 mGy, and temperature fluctuations from −25 to +50°C, applied isolated or in combination. Comparable control experiments were performed on ground. After retrieval, viability of spores was analysed by two methods: (i) ethidium bromide staining and (ii) test of germination capability. About 30% of the spores in vacuum survived the space travel, if shielded against insolation. However, in most cases no significant decrease was observed for spores exposed in addition to the full spectrum of solar UV irradiation. As the spores were exposed in clusters, the outer layers of spores may have shielded the inner part. The results give some information about the likelihood of lithopanspermia, the natural transfer of micro-organisms between planets. In addition to the parameters of outer space, sojourn time in space seems to be one of the limiting parameters.

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International Journal of Astrobiology
  • ISSN: 1473-5504
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