List of microorganisms tested in outer space

Summary

The survival of some microorganisms exposed to outer space has been studied using both simulated facilities and low Earth orbit exposures. Bacteria were some of the first organisms investigated, when in 1960 a Russian satellite carried Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Enterobacter aerogenes into orbit.[1] Many kinds of microorganisms have been selected for exposure experiments since, as listed in the table below.

Experiments of the adaption of microbes in space have yielded unpredictable results. While sometimes the microorganism may weaken, they can also increase in their disease-causing potency.[1]

It is possible to classify these microorganisms into two groups, the human-borne and the extremophiles. Studying the human-borne microorganisms is significant for human welfare and future crewed missions in space, whilst the extremophiles are vital for studying the physiological requirements of survival in space.[2] NASA has pointed out that normal adults have ten times as many microbial cells as human cells in their bodies.[3] They are also nearly everywhere in the environment and, although normally invisible, can form slimy biofilms.[3]

Extremophiles have adapted to live in some of the most extreme environments on Earth. This includes hypersaline lakes, arid regions, deep sea, acidic sites, cold and dry polar regions and permafrost.[4] The existence of extremophiles has led to the speculation that microorganisms could survive the harsh conditions of extraterrestrial environments and be used as model organisms to understand the fate of biological systems in these environments. The focus of many experiments has been to investigate the possible survival of organisms inside rocks (lithopanspermia),[2] or their survival on Mars for understanding the likelihood of past or present life on that planet.[2] Because of their ubiquity and resistance to spacecraft decontamination, bacterial spores are considered likely potential forward contaminants on robotic missions to Mars. Measuring the resistance of such organisms to space conditions can be applied to develop adequate decontamination procedures.[5]

Research and testing of microorganisms in outer space could eventually be applied for directed panspermia or terraforming.

Table

 Checked indicates testing conditions
Organism Low Earth orbit Impact event and planetary ejection Atmospheric reentry Simulated conditions References
Bacteria & bacterial spores
Actinomyces erythreus
Checked
[6]
Aeromonas proteolytica
Checked
[7]
Anabaena cylindrica (akinetes)
Checked
Checked
[8]
Azotobacter chroococcum
Checked
[9]
Azotobacter vinelandii
Checked
[10]
Bacillus cereus
Checked
[11]
Bacillus megaterium
Checked
[12]
Bacillus mycoides
Checked
[13]
Bacillus pumilus
Checked
[13][14]
Bacillus subtilis
Checked
Checked
Checked
Checked
[15][16][17][18][19]
Bacillus thuringiensis
Checked
[7]
Carnobacterium
Checked
[20]
Chroococcidiopsis
Checked
Checked
Checked
Checked
[21][22][23][24]
Clostridium botulinum
Checked
[12]
Clostridium butyricum
Checked
[25][26]
Clostridium celatum
Checked
[26]
Clostridium mangenotii
Checked
[26]
Clostridium roseum
Checked
[26]
Deinococcus aerius
Checked
[27]
Deinococcus aetherius
Checked
[28]
Deinococcus geothermalis
Checked
Checked
[29]
Deinococcus radiodurans
Checked
Checked
Checked
[30][31][32][33][34]
Enterobacter aerogenes
Checked
[35]
Escherichia coli
Checked
Checked
Checked
[12][26][36][37]
Gloeocapsa
Checked
[24]
Gloeocapsopsis pleurocapsoides
Checked
[38]
Haloarcula-G
Checked
[39]
Hydrogenomonas eutropha
Checked
[36]
Klebsiella pneumoniae
Checked
[12]
Kocuria rosea
Checked
[40]
Lactobacillus plantarum
Checked
[41]
Leptolyngbya
Checked
[38]
Luteococcus japonicus
Checked
[42]
Micrococcus luteus
Checked
[42]
Nostoc commune
Checked
Checked
[24][43]
Nostoc microscopicum
Checked
[38]
Photobacterium
Checked
[42]
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Checked
Checked
[3][41]
Pseudomonas fluorescens
Checked
[41]
Rhodococcus erythropolis
Checked
[44]
Rhodospirillum rubrum
Checked
[10]
Salmonella enterica
Checked
[45]
Serratia marcescens
Checked
[11]
Serratia plymuthica
Checked
[46]
Staphylococcus aureus
Checked
[25][41]
Streptococcus mutans
Checked
[47]
Streptomyces albus
Checked
[41]
Streptomyces coelicolor
Checked
[47]
Synechococcus (halite)
Checked
[39][48][49]
Synechocystis
Checked
Checked
[50]
Symploca
Checked
[38]
Tolypothrix byssoidea
Checked
[38]
Archaea
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Halobacterium noricense
Checked
[51][52]
Halobacterium salinarum
Checked
[47]
Halococcus dombrowskii
Checked
[51]
Halorubrum chaoviatoris
Checked
[49][53]
Methanosarcina sp. SA-21/16
Checked
[54]
Methanobacterium MC-20
Checked
[54]
Methanosarcina barkeri
Checked
[54]
Fungi and algae
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Aspergillus niger
Checked
[42]
Aspergillus oryzae
Checked
Checked
[30][42]
Aspergillus terreus
Checked
[55]
Aspergillus versicolor
Checked
[56]
Chaetomium globosum
Checked
Checked
[7]
Cladosporium herbarum
Checked
[57]
Cryomyces antarcticus
Checked
Checked
[58][59]
Cryomyces minteri
Checked
Checked
[58]
Euglena gracilis
Checked
Checked
[60][61][62][63]
Mucor plumbeus
Checked
[42]
Nannochloropsis oculata
Checked
[64][65][66]
Penicillium roqueforti
Checked
[15]
Rhodotorula mucilaginosa
Checked
[42]
Sordaria fimicola
Checked
[67]
Trebouxia
Checked
[68]
Trichoderma koningii
Checked
[53]
Trichoderma longibrachiatum
Checked
[69]
Trichophyton terrestre
Checked
[7]
Ulocladium atrum
Checked
[18]
Lichens
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Aspicilia fruticulosa
Checked
Checked
[70]
Buellia frigida
Checked
[71]
Circinaria gyrosa
Checked
Checked
[68][72]
Rhizocarpon geographicum
Checked
Checked
[68][73]
Rosenvingiella
Checked
[24]
Xanthoria elegans
Checked
Checked
Checked
[74][75][76][77][78]
Xanthoria parietina
Checked
Checked
[75]
Bacteriophage / virus
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
T7 phage
Checked
[7]
Canine hepatitis
Checked
[79]
Influenza PR8
Checked
[79]
Tobacco mosaic virus
Checked
[47][79]
Vaccinia virus
Checked
[79]
Yeast
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Rhodotorula rubra
Checked
Checked
[7]
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Checked
Checked
[7]
Saccharomyces ellipsoides
Checked
[36]
Zygosaccharomyces bailii
Checked
[36]
Animals
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Caenorhabditis elegans
(nematode)
Checked
[80][81]
Hypsibius dujardini
(tardigrade)
Checked
Checked
[82][83]
Milnesium tardigradum
(tardigrade)
Checked
[84][85][86]
Richtersius coronifer
(tardigrade)
Checked
Checked
[84][87]
Mniobia russeola
(rotifer)
Checked
[87]

See also

Low Earth orbit missions

References

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