List of microorganisms tested in outer space

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The survival of some microorganisms exposed to outer space has been studied using both simulated facilities and low Earth orbit exposures. A large number of microorganisms have been selected for exposure experiments, as listed in the table below.

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 manned missions in space, whilst the extremophiles are vital for studying the physiological requirements of survival in space.[1] NASA has pointed out that normal adults have ten times as many microbial cells as human cells in their bodies.[2] They are also nearly everywhere in the environment, and although normally invisible can form slimy biofilms.[2]

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.[3] 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 of the experiments has been to investigate the possible survival of organisms inside rocks (lithopanspermia),[1] or their survival on Mars for understanding the likelihood of past or present life on that planet.[1] 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.[4]

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


  indicates testing conditions
Organism Type of test References
Low Earth
Planetary ejection Atmospheric reentry Simulated
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 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
Serratia marcescens
Serratia plymuthica
Staphylococcus aureus
Streptococcus mutans
Streptomyces albus
Streptomyces coelicolor
Synechococcus (halite)
Tolypothrix byssoidea
Halobacterium noricense
Halobacterium salinarum
Halococcus dombrowskii
Halorubrum chaoviatoris
Methanosarcina sp. SA-21/16
Methanobacterium MC-20
Methanosarcina barkeri
Fungi and their spores
Aspergillus niger
Aspergillus oryzae
Aspergillus terreus
Aspergillus versicolor
Chaetomium globosum
Cladosporium herbarum
Cryomyces antarcticus
Cryomyces minteri
Mucor plumbeus
Penicillium roqueforti
Rhodotorula mucilaginosa
Sordaria fimicola
Trichoderma koningii
Trichoderma longibrachiatum
Trichophyton terrestre
Ulocladium atrum
Aspicilia fruticulosa
Buellia frigida
Circinaria gyrosa
Rhizocarpon geographicum
Xanthoria elegans
Xanthoria parietina
T7 phage
Canine hepatitis
Influenza PR8
Tobacco mosaic virus
Vaccinia virus
Rhodotorula rubra
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Saccharomyces ellipsoides
Zygosaccharomyces bailii
Milnesium tardigradum
Richtersius coronifer

See also[edit]

Low Earth orbit missions


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