An international team of researchers has discovered a way to preserve a microbial colony from the vacuum of space and keep it alive in a living organism.
The team discovered the method using a type of algae that’s commonly found in the oceans and seas.
The technique was reported today in the journal Nature Communications.
This is the first time scientists have found a way for a colony to survive in the vacuum environment of space.
“It was a pretty amazing thing to learn,” said co-author Peter Härling of the University of Hamburg, who also works at NASA.
“We’ve been searching for this method for years, and we haven’t found it before.”
The algae was grown in a lab under anaerobic conditions.
When the algae started to degrade the carbon in its DNA, a single gene on its surface was able to activate a chemical reaction to make it more susceptible to the oxygen it was exposed to.
“You’re getting a chemical change that basically shuts down the whole colony,” Härsling said.
“It’s like the cell has a virus.”
The team also discovered the ability of the algae to survive under conditions where the bacteria had been exposed to the vacuum.
When they exposed the algae and bacteria to vacuum conditions in a laboratory, they were able to maintain their viability for an average of eight days.
“What you’re seeing is a bacterial colony that’s able to survive the vacuum,” said Härmling.
The research team believes that the ability to survive is due to the bacteria’s ability to use the vacuum to get nutrients and oxygen from the surrounding water, which is much easier to obtain in space than on land.
“The oxygen comes from the water in the microgravity environment,” Höring said.
“When we are in space, the water is cold and it is very cold, and you’re getting very little oxygen.
You’re getting nothing but CO 2 in the atmosphere.
So the bacteria use the water vacuum as a nutrient source.”
The researchers also noticed that the bacteria tended to survive better under conditions that did not have enough oxygen.
When their oxygen levels were kept below normal, the bacteria died faster and less frequently.
The researchers believe that this may be because the oxygen-rich water also has less CO 2 than the carbon-rich space.
The study also shows that the bacterial colonies in space are not necessarily dying.
The bacteria survive for at least eight days in the conditions of the vacuum, which may be a limitation to their survival.
The next step is to test whether or not the algae can survive under these conditions, and if so, what happens if the oxygen is gone.
The scientists are also looking into whether this technique can be used to grow plants in space.
Härring said the team is still working out the best way to grow the algae in space to see if it can be made in the future.