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Astrobiology Exposure and Micrometeoroid Capture Experiments (ExHam)


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Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Akihiko Yamagishi, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Information provided courtesy of the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Brief Summary

We will expose blocks of soft-solid material called aerogel outside of the International Space Station to collect the particles. We will also expose terrestrial microbes and organic compounds to the space and analyze the survival after bring them back to the earth. We expect to know the possibility of transport of organic compounds from space to the earth and interplanetary migration of microbes.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Akihiko Yamagishi, Tokyo University of Pharmacy & Life Sciences, Tokyo, Japan
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending

    Information Pending

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    Information Pending

    Research Benefits

    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration

    September 2013 - March 2014

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    MPAC-SEED: BioRisk, Expose R, Expose E

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • We don't know if life evolved on the earth or on the other places. The life may travel between planets. We are going to test if it is possible for microbe to servive during the travel between planets. We are also going to test if the organic compounds are formed in space and carried into the earth.

    • We will analyze organic compounds in the particles captured on the aerogel blocks. We will test if the terrestrial microbes may be orbiting at ISS height. We will be able to tell if some species of the microbes may be able to travel though space.

    • The research will tell the origin of organic compounds needed for the evolution of life. The research will also give us the information if the terrestrial microbes are able to travel to the other planets.


    Tanpopo experiment consists of following 6 subjects.

    1) Life has evolved on the earth about 4 billion years ago. Before the evolution of life, organic compounds are needed to be accumulated on the earth surface. One of the major sources of the organic compounds is the organic compound on the micrometeorites. We try to capture micrometeorite by using blocks of aerogel. Aerogel is soft inorganic material designed to capture small particles with high velocity. Micro particles captured on the aerogel blocks will be examined if some of the micrometeorite contains organic compound or not, after transferring back to the ground lab.
    2) Organic compounds on micrometeorite are exposed to the space environment before reaching to the earth. The organic compounds may be modified by the environment. Several organic compounds that are expected to be present on micrometeorite will be exposed in space environments to test the modification in the space environment.
    3) Some research groups have done sampling experiments at high altitude using baloons and aircrafts. Microbes were isolated, suggesting the possible migration of microbes from grand to high altitudes. We will test if the microbes may reach to the ISS orbit altitude. Micro-particles in aerogel will be microbiologically analyzed. We will observe the micro-particles under a fluorescence microscope in the presence of the DNA specific fluorescence pigment.
    4) Terrestrial microbes may escape from the earth gravity upon the process of volcanic eruption, thunderstorm, meteorite impact, and electro magnetic fields around the earth. The microbes may travel to the other planets. We will test the survival of some species of microbes in the space environment. We will analyze the survival of microbes after transferring the exposed samples back to the ground lab.
    5) The micro-particles captured by aerogel include artificial particles, so called space debris. The number, sizes, direction of the orbit, approximate velocities of the captured particles are recorded to know the information about the space debris at the ISS orbit height.
    6) The aerogel used in the Tanpopo experiment is specially designed to capture particles with high velocity. The density of the upper part of the aerogel block is less than 0.01g/cubic cm. The lower part of the aerogel block is about 0.03g/cubic cm. Upper layer is expected to capture particles with less alteration form the heat production, while the lower layer is designed to stop particles with higher energy. Performance will be tested while testing the above experiments.

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    Space Applications

    The space debris is the potential threat to the space program. We monitor the micro-space-debris during the operation. The aerogel we have developed is potentially useful for other particle capture experiments. Monitoring mechanical thermometer can be the way of monitoring temperature out side of the spacecraft.

    Earth Applications

    The origin of terestrial life is a fundamental target of question that everybody asks. We may be able to get the clue to answer the question. Whether the organic compounds were transported from space before the origin of life? Whether the life may migrate through planets?

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    Operational Requirements

    Number of experiment: 3 rounds.
    Duration of one round of experiment: about one year.
    Number of experimental apparatus: (Sample Aerogel Panels)
    - 17 Sample Aerogel Panels for one round of experiments 51 Sample Aerogel Panels in total. (Sample Trays)
    - 3 Sample Trays and 3 Control Sample Trays

    Handling care:
    Front surface of the Sample Aerogel Panels should not be touched by anything.
    Containers of Sample Aerogel Panel should not be shocked.
    Front surface of the Sample Trays should not be hit by hard objects.
    ExHAM should be attached in the indicated direction toward the direction of ISS movement.

    Downlink of data:
    (Non real time)
    - Video recorded data of the thermometor
    - Date fo position and direction of ISS during the experimets
    - Temperature and pressure data in the storage site of the SAP and ST.

    Return of samples
    - 17 Sample Aerogel Panels, one Sample Tray and one Control Sample Tray for one round of experiment.

    Operational Protocols

    Launch operation: TA will be contained in TBD number of containers, they should be placed right side up to avoid the possible falling down of aerogel from SAP and samples from ST.

    Transport of TA from HTV and in ISS: Aerogel is fragile material; special care not to give shock on the container of TA is needed.

    Attachment of ExHAM on Air Rock Table: ExHAM is attached on the Airlock Table.

    Attachment of TA on ExHAM: TA is going to be taken out from the TA containers. 17 SAP and 3 ST are going to be attached to the indicated sites on ExHAM. 3 Control ST are kept inside of the container and stored at the assigned place.

    Removal of the covers of each SAP: Front surface of each SAP is protected by plastic film from possible contamination during the transport. The film is detached by an ISS crew after the attachment of all of the SAP on ExHAM.

    Photo taking of the TA on ExHAM: Photographs of 5 faces of ExHAM excluding The Airlock Table side are taken to record the secure attachment and the direction of each SAP and ST regarding the direction of ExHAM.

    Transfer of ExHAM through the Airlock and attachment of ExHAM on a Handhold: ExHAM is transferred through Airlock and is detached from the Airlock Table with the combination of Mother and Baby Robotic Arms. ExHAM is attached on a Handhold assigned.

    Special care should be taken not to touch the surface of TA by Robotic arms. Special care not to hit the surface of TA by other object should be also taken.

    Videocamera recording of Mechanical Thermometer: During the duration of exposure experiment, at the designated time and duration, Mechanical Thermometer are recored by designated video camera.

    Retrieval of ExHAM and transport ExHAM through the Airlock: After the designated duration of time, ExHAM is retrieved from the Handhold by Robotic Arms and transported through the Airlock into ISS-PA.

    Special care should be taken not to touch the surface of TA by Robotic Arms. Special care not to hit the surface of TA by other objects should be also taken.

    Photo taking of the TA on ExHAM: photographs of 5 faces of ExHAM excluding the Airlock Table side should be taken to record the appearance of each SAP and ST on ExHAM.

    Attachment of Covers: Aluminum Cover (AC) is attached in front of the SAP by an ISS crew. Special care not to touch at the front surface of SAP should be taken during the operation.

    Detachment of SAP and storage: All of SAP are detached from ExHAM and stored in SAP containers. The SAP containers are stored at the assigned area until the transfer back to the ground.

    Detachment of ST: One of the attached ST, the specific one assigned, is detached from ExHAM. ST is stored in ST container and stored at the assigned area until the transfer back to the ground.

    Transfer back to the ground: Containers of 17 SAP, and a Container of ST and Control ST are transfered back to the ground by the vehicle to be dettermined.


    Attachment of TA on ExHAM: New TA is taken out from the TA containers. New 17 SAP and 3 new ST are attached to the indicated sites on ExHAM. 3 Control ST are kept inside of the container and stored at the assigned place.

    Following steps are the same as the FIRST ROUND OPPERATION

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    Results/More Information

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    Related Websites

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    image Image courtesy of JAXA.
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Research-Helpline.