Experimental methods for studying microbial survival in extraterrestrial environments

Olsson-Francis, Karen and Cockell, Charles (2010). Experimental methods for studying microbial survival in extraterrestrial environments. Journal of Microbiological Methods, 80(1) pp. 1–13.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2009.10.004


Microorganisms can be used as model systems for studying biological responses to extraterrestrial conditions; however, the methods for studying their response are extremely challenging. Since the first high altitude microbiological experiment in 1935 a large number of facilities have been developed for short- and long-term microbial exposure experiments. Examples are the BIOPAN facility, used for short-term exposure, and the EXPOSE facility aboard the International Space Station, used for long-term exposure. Furthermore, simulation facilities have been developed to conduct microbiological experiments in the laboratory environment. A large number of microorganisms have been used for exposure experiments; these include pure cultures and microbial communities. Analyses of these experiments have involved both culture-dependent and independent methods. This review highlights and discusses the facilities available for microbiology experiments, both in space and in simulation environments. A description of the microorganisms and the techniques used to analyse survival is included. Finally we discuss the implications of microbiological studies for future missions and for space applications.

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