The EXPOSE research facility is built with the objective to expose biological and biochemical sample materials to the open space environment. The EXPOSE programme is part of ESA?s research in Astrobiology, i.e. the study of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the Universe. EXPOSE offers one to two years of exposure with full access to all components of the harsh space environment: cosmic radiation, vacuum, full-spectrum solar light including UV-C, freezing/thawing cycles, microgravity.Principal Investigator(s)
European Space Agency (ESA)Sponsoring Organization
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Photochemical Processing of Amino Acids in Earth Orbit
The main objective of the Amino experiment is to study the evolution of organic molecules subjected to solar UV radiation. The exposed compounds belong to various chemical families (including amino acids, polymers, RNA) in the solid state, and also as gas mixtures simulating planetary atmospheres. The molecules selected are relevant to the study of the organic chemistry at the surface or in the atmosphere of Solar System bodies with strong ties with astrobiology: comets, meteorites and Titan. They help us to understand the chemical evolution which has led to the origin of life on Earth and the possibility of the emergence of life elsewhere. A secondary objective is to test the resistance of plant seeds to a mixture of vacuum, UV and cosmic radiation. Seed survival indicates that a dormant life form could cope with the extreme conditions encountered in the interplanetary transfer of life (the panspermia theory).
Screening of Ultra-Violet Radiation in Endolithic and Microalgal Communities from Antarctica
This experiment investigates the effects of space conditions on photosynthetic organisms. The experiment examines isolated cells of Chroococcidiopsis, a UV and desiccation resistant microorganism. It also examines a community of photosynthetic organisms within sections of porous rock to investigate the protection provided by rock habitats against extreme environmental conditions.
Exposure of Osmophilic Microbes to Space Environment
This experiment aims to understand the response of microbes to the vacuum of space and to solar radiation. It especially focuses on unicellular organisms that survive in salty environments of high osmotic pressure, in this case Synechococcus (a cyanobacterium) and Halorubrum chaoviatoris (an archaeon). It asseses whether these salt-rich environments, as well as the high intracellular potassium concentration of the micro-organisms, play a role in protecting their DNA from vacuum desiccation and UV radiation in space.
Spores in Artificial Meteorites
The main objective of this experiment is to study the survival of spores of bacteria (Bacillus subtilis), fungi (Trichoderma koningii) and ferns (Athyrium filix-femina, Dryopteris filix-mas) on a simulated space journey via meteorites. This includes the study of their resistance against space conditions, i.e. solar UV, vacuum and cosmic radiation, as well as the degree of protection by meteorite material. In addition, the experiment includes the dosimetry package R3D-R for on-line measurement of UV and cosmic radiation and transmission by telemetry.
DNA Photodamage. Measurements of Vacuum Solar Radiation-Induced DNA Damages within Spores
This experiment is studying the effect of exposure of bacterial spores and samples of their DNA to solar UV radiation. The objective is to assess the quantity and chemistry of chemical products produced. The samples are completely exposed, or protected by artificial meteorite materials, clays, and salt crystals.
Mutational Spectra of Bacillus subtilis Spores and Plasmid DNA Exposed to High Vacuum and Solar UV Radiation in Space Environment
This experiment determines the mutagenicity of the spores of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis induced by exposure to space vacuum and/or solar UV radiation. The experiment uses two different strains of the bacteria, one of which is deficient in repairing UV-induced photoproducts. The frequencies of rifampicin-resistant mutations and sequence changes in the induced mutants (?mutagenic spectra?) is determined, and compared with those obtained by the vacuum and solar-UV exposure on the ground.
Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA, and Polycrystalline Uracil to Space Environment
The Phage and Uracil Response (PUR) experiment studies the effect of solar UV radiation on a type of virus (Phage T7) and an RNA compound (uracil) to determine their effectiveness as biological dosimeters for measuring UV dose in the space environment.
Evolution of Organic Matter in Space
The goal of the Organic experiment is to investigate the evolution of organic matter in space. The effects of space conditions (with emphasis on UV radiation) on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and fullerenes is measured. PAHs represent an abundant component of interstellar and circumstellar dust and have been identified in planetary environments such as meteorites. Studying their evolutionary cycle on the ISS expectedly provides important contributions to astrophysics and astrobiology.
Exposure of resting stages of organisms to space conditions
The experiment from IBMP (the Institute for Biomedical Problems, Moscow) is looking into the effect of exposing a diverse collection of terrestrial and aquatic organisms in a resting stage of their life cycle to space conditions. Included are bacterial spores, fungal spores, plant seeds, eggs of lower crustacean and cryptobiosis larvae.
Expose-R contains a variety of biological samples including plant seeds, bacteria, fungi and ferns, which are exposed to the harsh space environment for 22 months.Earth Applications
At the end of the 22-months exposure period the Expose-R trays are retrieved from their location outside the station and returned to Earth and distributed to scientists for further analysis.Operational Protocols
Nine experiments contained in three trays make up Expose-R, which is mounted on the outside of the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS).
Bryson KL, Peeters Z, Salama F, Foing B, Ehrenfreund P, Ricco AJ, Jessberger E, Bischoff A, Breitfellner M, Schmidt W, Robert F. The ORGANIC experiment on EXPOSE-R on the ISS: Flight sample preparation and ground control spectroscopy. Advances in Space Research. 2011; 48(12): 1980-1996. DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2011.07.017.
Panitz C, Rettberg P, Rabbow E, Reitz G, Horneck G. The EXPOSE-R Experiment ROSE-3 SPORES in artificial meteorites. 2011 EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting, Nantes, France; 2011
Hock B, Rettberg P, Wänke H, Dachev TP, Reitz G, Rabbow E, Häder D, Horneck G, Panitz C, Lux-Endrich A, Richter P, Mishev D. Spores in artificial meteorites, the experiment SPORES on expose. First European Workshop on Exo-Astrobiology, Graz, Austria; 2002 55-58.