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“To boldly go where no microbe has gone before” – fascination and responsible of the research area space microbiology

Moeller, R. (2019) “To boldly go where no microbe has gone before” – fascination and responsible of the research area space microbiology. 12th Student Symposium on Molecular Medicine, May 4, 2019, Ulm University.

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With international plans being formulated for solar system exploration, either using robotic probes or with human crews, microbiologists are confronted with exciting new opportunities and challenging demands. The search for signatures of life forms on another planet or moon in our solar system is one of the most prominent goals of these enterprises. Our neighbor planet Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa are considered key targets for the search for life beyond Earth. By analogy, with terrestrial extremophilic microbial communities, e.g., those thriving in extreme environments (such as deserts) and/or those exposed to intense UV radiation, additional potential extraterrestrial habitats may be identified. Field studies with microbial communities in those extreme environments as well as microbiological studies under simulated planetary environments - in space as well as in the laboratory - will provide valuable information for preparing the “search-for-life” experiments on missions to those solar system bodies. Another important role of microbiologists in space exploration concerns the planetary protection initiative. Here robotic orbiters, entry probes, or landers can unintentionally introduce terrestrial microorganisms to a planetary target of interest. This may destroy the opportunity to examine these bodies in their pristine condition. Depending on the target and type of mission, the planetary protection guidelines require cleaning and, in specific cases, sterilization of the spacecraft or components to avoid contamination with terrestrial organisms. The success of the cleaning and/or sterilization measures needs to be controlled by establishing a thorough inventory of the bioload prior to launch. Guidelines for bioload measurements, sterilization procedures, and effective planetary protection protocols must be established and implemented. The presence of humans on the surface of the Moon or Mars will substantially increase the capabilities of space research and exploration; however, prior to any human exploratory mission, the critical microbial issues concerning human health and wellbeing need to be addressed. Also the need to understand evolutionary pressures exerted on microorganisms by the spaceflight environment represent additional upcoming paramount tasks for microbiologists. In my talk, I will present data and information on previous, ongoing and future space microbiology/astrobiology activities of the DLR.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/130284/
Document Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Title:“To boldly go where no microbe has gone before” – fascination and responsible of the research area space microbiology
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthors ORCID iD
Moeller, R.Radiation Biology Department, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany; ralf.moeller (at) dlr.dehttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-2371-0676
Date:4 May 2019
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:Yes
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:No
Keywords:microbiology, astrobiology
Event Title:12th Student Symposium on Molecular Medicine
Event Location:Ulm University
Event Type:international Conference
Event Dates:May 4, 2019
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R FR - Forschung unter Weltraumbedingungen
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Vorhaben Strahlenbiologie
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Radiation Biology
Deposited By: Kopp, Kerstin
Deposited On:21 Nov 2019 15:50
Last Modified:21 Nov 2019 15:50

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