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Expose-E (Expose-E)


Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Petra Rettberg, Filip Vanhavera , Günter Reitz, Ph.D., Silvano Onofri, Hervé Cottin, Gerda Horneck, Donat-Peter Häder, David Tepfer, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Information provided courtesy of the Erasmus Experiment Archive.
Brief Summary

The EXPOSE research facility is built with the objective to expose biological and biochemical sample materials to the open space environment. EXPOSE offers up 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. 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.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Petra Rettberg, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Köln , Germany
  • Filip Vanhavera , Belgium
  • Günter Reitz, Ph.D., Institute of Aerospace Medicine , Köln, Germany
  • Silvano Onofri, University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
  • Hervé Cottin, Université Paris Est Créteil et Université Paris Diderot , Créteil, France
  • Gerda Horneck, Institute of Aerospace Medicine , Köln, Germany
  • Donat-Peter Häder, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany
  • David Tepfer, Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique , Versailles , France
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending

    Information Pending

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    European Space Agency (ESA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration:

    October 2007 - October 2009

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • Some EXPOSE experiments investigate to what extent particular terrestrial organisms are able to cope with extra-terrestrial environmental conditions. Other EXPOSE experiments test how organic molecules, the building blocks of life, behave when subjected for a prolonged period of time to unfiltered solar light (a scientific domain called chemical evolution).

    • In February 2008 EXPOSE-E was installed at the outside of the European Columbus laboratory as one of the payloads of the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF). After 18 months in space EuTEF came back to Earth with STS-128 in September 2009.

    • EXPOSE-E is the first mission of EXPOSE. A second EXPOSE mission was recently completed (EXPOSE-R), a third one is in preparation (EXPOSE-R2).


    EXPOSE-E carries eight individual experiments as listed below:

    Testing the plant seed as a terrestrial model for a panspermia vehicle and as a source of universal UV screens.

    Plant seeds have evolved to conserve the species and its genome under extreme stress conditions (cold, desiccation…). The objective of SEEDS is therefore to determine the resistance of plant seeds when exposed to the open space environment. Plant seeds have in fact frequently been tested in space, mostly as part of microgravity and radiation studies, but never with full exposure to solar UV-C on a long-duration flight.

    Prebiotic Organic Chemistry on Space Station

    The main goal of this investigation is to improve our knowledge of the chemical nature and evolution of organic molecules involved in extraterrestrial environments and with exobiological implications. Many experimental programs are devoted to photochemical studies of molecules in the gaseous phase as well as in the solid state. The validity of such works and their applications to extraterrestrial environments can be questioned as long as experiments conducted in space conditions, with the full solar spectrum, especially in the short wavelengths domain, have not been implemented.

    Resistance of spacecraft isolates to outer space for planetary protection purposes

    PROTECT resorts under a special niche of astrobiology known as Planetary Protection. Some microorganisms can resist to all sterilization procedures applied nowadays and therefore represent a serious hazard for the in situ search for extraterrestrial life, contaminating the planetary bodies the probes are sent to. It is of crucial importance to measure the resistance of such organisms to space conditions in order to develop adequate decontamination procedures.

    Molecular adaptation strategies of micro-organisms to different space and planetary UV climate conditions

    The scientific objective of ADAPT is to investigate the capability of micro-organisms to adapt to UV levels like those on Earth and on Mars. Due to the different composition of the Martian atmosphere and its low pressure, the Martian UV radiation climate is significantly different from that on Earth. The hypothesis to be tested is whether longer-lasting selective pressure by UV radiation of different quality would result in a higher UV resistance as well as in a higher resistance against the simultaneous action of further extreme environmental factors that exist in space or on other planets, like vacuum or cosmic radiation.

    Resistance of lichens and lithic fungi to space conditions

    Lithic fungi and lichens, thriving on Earth in extreme environments, are tested for their rate of survival in open space, with a subset of samples exposed to simulated Martian conditions. Previous ESA experiments in 2005 and 2007 demonstrated the surprising robustness of lichens during two-week exposure to the harsh space conditions – including solar UV. The LIFE experiment is a logical follow-on to these studies, with the exposure duration this time extended from 2 weeks to 18 months.

    Radiation Dose Distribution inside EXPOSE

    Measurement of the total radiation dose inside EXPOSE-E in close vicinity of the test samples.

    Active monitoring of UV and ionizing radiation

    The R3D (Radiation Risks Radiometer-Dosimeter) is a device which records, with time resolution, the dose of solar light over four wavelength ranges (UV-A, UV-B, UV-C and photosynthetic active light) as well as the flux of cosmic particles. The R3D supported the biological and biochemical EXPOSE-E experiments by delivering the history of solar irradiation and cosmic radiation as experienced during the mission.

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    Space Applications

    Information Pending

    Earth Applications

    Information Pending

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    Operational Requirements

    Information Pending

    Operational Protocols

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

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    Results Publications

      Onofri S, Rabbow E, Horneck G, Zucconi L, Selbmann L, Albertano P, Scalzi G.  LIFE Experiment: Isolation of Cryptoendolithic Organisms from Antarctic Colonized Sandstone Exposed to Space and Simulated Mars Conditions on the International Space Station. Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere: the journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. 2012; 42: 253-262. DOI: 10.1007/s11084-012-9282-5. PMID: 22688852.

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites

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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-Payloads-Helpline.