List of microorganisms tested in outer space

The survival of some microorganisms exposed to outer space has been studied using both simulated facilities and low Earth orbit exposures. Bacteria were some of the first organisms investigated, when in 1960 a Russian satellite carried Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Enterobacter aerogenes into orbit.[1] Many kinds of microorganisms have been selected for exposure experiments since, as listed in the table below.

Experiments of the adaption of microbes in space have yielded unpredictable results. While sometimes the microorganism may weaken, they can also increase in their disease-causing potency.[1]

It is possible to classify these microorganisms into two groups, the human-borne and the extremophiles. Studying the human-borne microorganisms is significant for human welfare and future crewed missions in space, whilst the extremophiles are vital for studying the physiological requirements of survival in space.[2] NASA has pointed out that normal adults have ten times as many microbial cells as human cells in their bodies.[3] They are also nearly everywhere in the environment and, although normally invisible, can form slimy biofilms.[3]

Extremophiles have adapted to live in some of the most extreme environments on Earth. This includes hypersaline lakes, arid regions, deep sea, acidic sites, cold and dry polar regions and permafrost.[4] The existence of extremophiles has led to the speculation that microorganisms could survive the harsh conditions of extraterrestrial environments and be used as model organisms to understand the fate of biological systems in these environments. The focus of many experiments has been to investigate the possible survival of organisms inside rocks (lithopanspermia),[2] or their survival on Mars for understanding the likelihood of past or present life on that planet.[2] Because of their ubiquity and resistance to spacecraft decontamination, bacterial spores are considered likely potential forward contaminants on robotic missions to Mars. Measuring the resistance of such organisms to space conditions can be applied to develop adequate decontamination procedures.[5]

Research and testing of microorganisms in outer space could eventually be applied for directed panspermia or terraforming.


   indicates testing conditions
Organism Low Earth orbit Impact event and planetary ejection Atmospheric reentry Simulated conditions References
Bacteria & bacterial spores
Actinomyces erythreus
Aeromonas proteolytica
Anabaena cylindrica (akinetes)
Azotobacter chroococcum
Azotobacter vinelandii
Bacillus cereus
Bacillus megaterium
Bacillus mycoides
Bacillus pumilus
Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus thuringiensis
Clostridium botulinum
Clostridium butyricum
Clostridium celatum
Clostridium mangenotii
Clostridium roseum
Deinococcus aerius
Deinococcus aetherius
Deinococcus geothermalis
Deinococcus radiodurans
Enterobacter aerogenes
Escherichia coli
Gloeocapsopsis pleurocapsoides
Hydrogenomonas eutropha
Klebsiella pneumoniae
Kocuria rosea
Lactobacillus plantarum
Luteococcus japonicus
Micrococcus luteus
Nostoc commune
Nostoc microscopicum
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Pseudomonas fluorescens
Rhodococcus erythropolis
Rhodospirillum rubrum
Salmonella enterica
Serratia marcescens
Serratia plymuthica
Staphylococcus aureus
Streptococcus mutans
Streptomyces albus
Streptomyces coelicolor
Synechococcus (halite)
Tolypothrix byssoidea
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Halobacterium noricense
Halobacterium salinarum
Halococcus dombrowskii
Halorubrum chaoviatoris
Methanosarcina sp. SA-21/16
Methanobacterium MC-20
Methanosarcina barkeri
Fungi and algae
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Aspergillus niger
Aspergillus oryzae
Aspergillus terreus
Aspergillus versicolor
Chaetomium globosum
Cladosporium herbarum
Cryomyces antarcticus
Cryomyces minteri
Euglena gracilis
Mucor plumbeus
Nannochloropsis oculata
Penicillium roqueforti
Rhodotorula mucilaginosa
Sordaria fimicola
Trichoderma koningii
Trichoderma longibrachiatum
Trichophyton terrestre
Ulocladium atrum
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Aspicilia fruticulosa
Buellia frigida
Circinaria gyrosa
Rhizocarpon geographicum
Xanthoria elegans
Xanthoria parietina
Bacteriophage / virus
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
T7 phage
Canine hepatitis
Influenza PR8
Tobacco mosaic virus
Vaccinia virus
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Rhodotorula rubra
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Saccharomyces ellipsoides
Zygosaccharomyces bailii
Low Earth orbit
Impact event and planetary ejection
Atmospheric reentry
Simulated conditions
Caenorhabditis elegans
Hypsibius dujardini
Milnesium tardigradum
Richtersius coronifer
Mniobia russeola

See alsoEdit

Low Earth orbit missions


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