Space microbiology

Dr. Kristina Beblo-Vranesevic

Dt. Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrtmedizin
Linder Höhe
51147 Köln

Dr. Felizitas Bajerski

Leibniz-Institut DSMZ - Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Mikrobielle Ökologie und Diversität
Inhoffenstraße 7B
38124 Braunschweig

Space microbiology: background, tasks and fascination

For more than 50 years, an armada of satellites has been orbiting our Earth with a variety of telecommunication, navigation and earth observation tasks, as well as with the aim of exploring our solar system, the Milky Way and distant galaxies. Astronauts have visited the moon, are working on the International Space Station and will soon be exploring Mars.
Since the first space missions, this unique environment has also offered numerous exciting research opportunities and tasks for microbiology. Microorganisms were sent into space with the very first satellites. While the initial question was whether and to what extent they could survive in this extremely hostile environment, this unique environment was soon used to address fundamental biological questions. Examples include investigations into the role of gravity in cellular processes, the biological effects of cosmic radiation, the upper limit of our biosphere and the possible transport of microorganisms between planets. Not least since the appearance of mould on the walls of the Russian space station MIR, microbiologists have also been called upon to help with cabin hygiene and the care of astronauts. Another field of research is concerned with the long-term use of innovative antimicrobial surface coatings that can be used to prevent the formation of biofilms on the ISS and in terrestrial medicine.
Apart from the diverse areas of application on Earth, space microbiology is primarily of fundamental importance for the exploration of our solar system (search for and formation of life), astronaut health, planetary protection, life support systems, the behaviour of extremophile microorganisms, biotechnology under space conditions and, of course, the search for extraterrestrial life (astrobiology).


VAAM members interested in space microbiology as well as non-members with an interest and fascination in space travel, space experiments and extreme microorganisms are cordially invited to participate and contribute to the specialist group and can obtain further information from the group speakers.


Interview of the microbiologist & NASA astronaut Kate Rubins

What is astrobiology?

Ask an astrobiologist

Life at extremes and astrobiology

Sampling microorganisms in caves: how to look for life

Astrobiology: The search for life beyond Earth

Life as we (now) know it

What is “planetary protection”?

Admission to special group