Limits of Life and the Habitability of Mars: The ESA Space Experiment BIOMEX on the ISS

  • BIOMEX (BIOlogy and Mars EXperiment) is an ESA/Roscosmos space exposure experiment housed within the exposure facility EXPOSE-R2 outside the Zvezda module on the International Space Station (ISS). The design of the multiuser facility supports—among others—the BIOMEX investigations into the stability and level of degradation of space-exposed biosignatures such as pigments, secondary metabolites, and cell surfaces in contact with a terrestrial and Mars analog mineral environment. In parallel, analysis on the viability of the investigated organisms has provided relevant data for evaluation of the habitability of Mars, for the limits of life, and for the likelihood of an interplanetary transfer of life (theory of lithopanspermia). In this project, lichens, archaea, bacteria, cyanobacteria, snow/permafrost algae, meristematic black fungi, and bryophytes from alpine and polar habitats were embedded, grown, and cultured on a mixture of martian and lunar regolith analogs or other terrestrial minerals. The organisms and regolith analogs and terrestrial mineral mixtures were then exposed to space and to simulated Mars-like conditions by way of the EXPOSE-R2 facility. In this special issue, we present the first set of data obtained in reference to our investigation into the habitability of Mars and limits of life. This project was initiated and implemented by the BIOMEX group, an international and interdisciplinary consortium of 30 institutes in 12 countries on 3 continents. Preflight tests for sample selection, results from ground-based simulation experiments, and the space experiments themselves are presented and include a complete overview of the scientific processes required for this space experiment and postflight analysis. The presented BIOMEX concept could be scaled up to future exposure experiments on the Moon and will serve as a pretest in low Earth orbit.

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Author:Jean-Pierre Paul de Vera, Mashal Alawi, Theresa Backhaus, Mickael Baqué, Daniela Billi, Ute Böttger, Thomas Berger, Maria Bohmeier, Charles Cockell, René Demets, Rosa de la Torre Noetzel, Howell Edwards, Andreas Elsaesser, Claudia Fagliarone, Annelie Fiedler, Bernard Foing, Frédéric Foucher, Jörg Fritz, Franziska Hanke, Thomas H. Herzog, Gerda Horneck, Heinz-Wilhelm Hübers, Björn Huwe, Jasmin Joshi, Natalia Kozyrovska, Martha Kruchten, Peter Lasch, Natuschka Lee, Stefan Leuko, Thomas Leya, Andreas Lorek, Jesús Martínez-Frías, Joachim Meessen, Sophie Moritz, Ralf Moeller, Karen Olsson-Francis, Silvano Onofri, Sieglinde Ott, Claudia Pacelli, Olga Podolich, Elke Rabbow, Günther Reitz, Petra Rettberg, Oleg Reva, Lynn Rothschild, Leo Garcia Sancho, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Laura Selbmann, Paloma Serrano, Ulrich Szewzyk, Cyprien Verseux, Jennifer Wadsworth, Dirk Wagner, Frances Westall, David Wolter, Laura Zucconi
URN:urn:nbn:de:kobv:526-opus4-12048
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2018.1897
ISSN:1557-8070
Parent Title (English):Astrobiology
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of Publication:2019
Publishing Institution:Technische Hochschule Wildau
Release Date:2019/05/03
Tag:BIOMEX; EXPOSE-R2; Extremophiles; Habitability; Limits of life; Mars
Volume:19
Issue:2
Source:de Vera, J., Alawi, M., Backhaus, T., Baqué, M., Billi, D., Böttger, U., et al. (2019). Limits of Life and the Habitability of Mars: The ESA Space Experiment BIOMEX on the ISS Astrobiology. 19 (2), 145-157. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2018.1897
Institutes:Fachbereich Ingenieur- und Naturwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 52 Astronomie / 520 Astronomie und zugeordnete Wissenschaften
5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):Creative Commons - CC BY-NC - Namensnennung - Nicht kommerziell 4.0 International