Microbial survival of space vacuum and extreme ultraviolet irradiation: Strain isolation and analysis during a rocket flight

Roya Saffary, Renu Nandakumar, Dennis Spencer, Frank T. Robb, Joseph M. Davila, Marvin Swartz, Leon Ofman, Roger J. Thomas, Jocelyne DiRuggiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


We have recovered new isolates from hot springs, in Yellowstone National Park and the Kamchatka Peninsula, after γ-irradiation and exposure to high vacuum (10-6 Pa) of the water and sediment samples. The resistance to desiccation and ionizing radiation of one of the isolates, Bacillus sp. strain PS3D, was compared to that of the mesophilic bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans, a species well known for its extraordinary resistance to desiccation and high doses of ionizing radiation. Survival of these two microorganisms was determined in real and simulated space conditions, including exposure to extreme UV radiation (10-100 nm) during a rocket flight. We found that up to 15 days of desiccation alone had little effect on the viability of either bacterium. In contrast, exposure to space vacuum (∼10-6 Pa) decreased cell survival by two and four orders of magnitude for Bacillus sp. strain PS3D and D. radiodurans, respectively. Simultaneous exposure to space vacuum and extreme UV radiation further decreased the survival of both organisms, compared to unirradiated controls. This is the first report on the isolated effect of extreme UV at 30 nm on cell survival. Extreme UV can only be transmitted through high vacuum, therefore its penetration into the cells may only be superficial, suggesting that in contrast to near UV, membrane proteins rather than DNA were damaged by the radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-168
Number of pages6
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 24 2002


  • Extreme ultraviolet
  • Extremophile
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Space survival
  • Space vacuum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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