London: Bacteria from cliffs on the South
Coast of England may soon be developed for use in life-support systems for astronauts travelling outside low-Earth orbit, say
scientists, who have found that the microbes survived for 553
days without oxygen in outer space.
The cells were taken in chunks of rock from cliffs
at Beer, Devon, and stuck to the exterior of the International
Space Station to see how long they could survive in hostile
conditions outside the Earth`s atmosphere.
When the scientists inspected the bacteria a year-and-
a-half after they were launched into space in 2008, they found
many were still alive despite having been exposed to extreme
ultraviolet light,cosmic rays and dramatic temperature shifts,
`The Daily Telegraph` reported.
As well as being starved of oxygen, all the water in
the limestone rock would also have boiled away into the vacuum
of space. It is the longest period of time for which any photo
-synthesising microbes have been seen to survive in space.
The discovery appears to support the theory that
alien micro-organisms could be transported between planets in
meteorites, according to scientists.
The surviving cells are now thriving in a laboratory
at the Open University in Milton Keynes.
Dr Karen Olsson-Francis, a researcher at the
laboratory, was quoted as saying, "It has been proposed that
bacteria could be used in life-support systems to recycle
"There is also the concept that if we were to
develop bases on the Moon or Mars, we could use bacteria for
`bio-mining` -- using them to extract important minerals from