The Few Tough Species That Survive the Rigors of Nothingness – Facts So Romantic

The Expose-R module attaches to the ISS and holds samples in the harsh conditions of space.NASA

In the 1800s, scientists imagined that life was brought to Earth by a rock that had been knocked off of a distant, life-filled planet. Now, over 100 years later, we are able to test this idea of “panspermia”—by sending life away from Earth and seeing just how well it can fare.

Over the past several years, space agencies have been sending small colonies of microbes from some of the harshest environments on our planet to space to see if they can survive a trip to the Moon or even Mars. Last month two Russian astronauts spacewalked out of the International Space Station and installed a special piece of equipment to its exterior. The module, called EXPOSE-R2, features an array of small containers that contain samples from four major varieties of life: bacteria, fungi, archaea, and plants. Unlike astronauts, who take extreme precautions to protect themselves from the hazards of outer space, these bio-suitcases are placed on the exterior of the station for months at end, with little protection. The module is also fitted with sensors that record fluctuations in pressure, temperature, and solar radiation,…
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