The lichen Xanthoria elegans has been exposed to space conditions and simulated Mars-analogue conditions in the lichen and fungi experiment (LIFE) on the International Space Station (ISS). After several simulations and short space exposure experiments such as BIOPAN, this was the first long-term exposure of eukaryotic organisms to the hostile space conditions of the low Earth orbit (LEO). The biological samples were integrated in the EXPOSE-E facility and exposed for 1.5 years outside the ISS to the combined impact of insolation, ultraviolet (UV)-irradiation, cosmic radiation, temperatures and vacuum conditions of LEO space. Additionally, a subset of X. elegans samples was exposed to simulated Martian environmental conditions by applying Mars-analogue atmosphere and suitable solar radiation filters. After their return to Earth the viability of the lichen samples was ascertained by viability analysis of LIVE/DEAD staining and confocal laser-scanning microscopy, but also by analyses of chlorophyll a fluorescence. According to the LIVE/DEAD staining results, the lichen photobiont showed an average viability rate of 71%, whereas the even more resistant lichen mycobiont showed a rate of 84%. Post-exposure viability rates did not significantly vary among the applied exposure conditions. This remarkable viability is discussed in the context of particular protective mechanisms of lichens such as anhydrobiosis and UV-screening pigments.
Research Containing: Cosmic Radiation
A reliable radiation risk assessment in space is a mandatory step for the development of countermeasures and long-duration mission planning in human spaceflight. Research in radiobiology provides information about possible risks linked to radiation. In addition, for a meaningful risk evaluation, the radiation exposure has to be assessed to a sufficient level of accuracy. Consequently, both the radiation models predicting the risks and the measurements used to validate such models must have an equivalent precision. Corresponding measurements can be performed both with passive and active devices. The former is easier to handle, cheaper, lighter, and smaller but they measure neither the time dependence of the radiation environment nor some of the details useful for a comprehensive radiation risk assessment. Active detectors provide most of these details and have been extensively used in the International Space Station. To easily access such an amount of data, a single point access is becoming essential. This review presents an ongoing work on the development of a tool that allows obtaining information about all relevant measurements performed with active detectors providing reliable inputs for radiation model validation.
The data from the R3DE instrument of ESA’s EXPOSE-E mission outside the ISS at the European Technological Expose Facility (EuTEF) on the ESA Columbus module shows that the docking of the Space Shuttle with the International Space Station (ISS) decreased the South-Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) maxima dose rates from about 1500 Gy h-1 down to 600-700 Gy h-1 or by factor of 2. The dose rate data at the same time from another Bulgarian built instrument (R3DR) of the EXPOSE-R mission outside the Russian “Zvezda” module showed that: 1) before the Space Shuttle docking, the SAA dose rates measured with R3DR were higher (2500 Gy h-1) than the R3DE data; 2) The relative decrease of the SAA dose rates after the shuttle docking was only by a factor of 1.25. These differences are explained by the smaller shielding of R3DR from the body of ISS and by the larger distance of it from the body of Space Shuttle. Very similar data, but with smaller dose rates were obtained with a third Bulgarian built instrument (Liulin-5) inside Russian “Pirs” module. The analysis of the ascending/descending SAA dose rate maxima of the three instruments shows that the effect can be simply explained by the additional shielding against the 30 to 150 MeV protons of the SAA, provided by the 78 tons Shuttle to the instruments and by changing of the ISS 3D mass distribution when the ISS rotates.
Characterisation of Growth and Ultrastructural Effects of the Xanthoria elegans Photobiont After 1.5 Years of Space Exposure on the International Space Station
The lichen Xanthoria elegans has been exposed to space and simulated Mars-analogue environment in the Lichen and Fungi Experiment (LIFE) on the EXPOSE-E facility at the International Space Station (ISS). This long-term exposure of 559 days tested the ability of various organisms to cope with either low earth orbit (LEO) or Mars-analogue conditions, such as vacuum, Mars-analogue atmosphere, rapid temperature cycling, cosmic radiation of up to 215 +/- 16 mGy, and insolation of accumulated doses up to 4.87 GJm(-2), including up to 0.314 GJm(-2) of UV irradiation. In a previous study, X. elegans demonstrated considerable resistance towards these conditions by means of photosynthetic activity as well as by post-exposure metabolic activity of 50-80 % in the algal and 60-90 % in the fungal symbiont (Brandt et al. Int J Astrobiol 14(3):411-425, 2015). The two objectives of the present study were complementary: First, to verify the high post-exposure viability by using a qualitative cultivation assay. Second, to characterise the cellular damages by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) which were caused by the space and Mars-analogue exposure conditions of LIFE. Since the algal symbiont of lichens is considered as the more susceptible partner (de Vera and Ott 2010), the analyses focused on the photobiont. The study demonstrated growth and proliferation of the isolated photobiont after all exposure conditions of LIFE. The ultrastructural analysis of the algal cells provided an insight to cellular damages caused by long-term exposure and highlighted that desiccation-induced breakdown of cellular integrity is more pronounced under the more severe space vacuum than under Mars-analogue atmospheric conditions. In conclusion, desiccation-induced damages were identified as a major threat to the photobiont of X. elegans. Nonetheless, a fraction of the photobiont cells remained cultivable after all exposure conditions tested in LIFE.
Background. While significant attention has been paid to the potential risk of pathogenic microbes aboard crewed spacecraft, the non-pathogenic microbes in these habitats have received less consideration. Preliminary work has demonstrated that the interior of the International Space Station (ISS) has a microbial community resembling those of built environments on Earth. Here we report the results of sending 48 bacterial strains, collected from built environments on Earth, for a growth experiment on the ISS. This project was a component of Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS). Results. Of the 48 strains sent to the ISS, 45 of them showed similar growth in space and on Earth using a relative growth measurement adapted for microgravity. The vast majority of species tested in this experiment have also been found in culture-independent surveys of the ISS. Only one bacterial strain showed significantly different growth in space. Bacillus safensis JPL-MERTA-8-2 grew 60% better in space than on Earth. Conclusions. The majority of bacteria tested were not affected by conditions aboard the ISS in this experiment (e.g., microgravity, cosmic radiation). Further work on Bacillus safensis could lead to interesting insights on why this strain grew so much better in space.
Evolution of the Health Canada astronaut biodosimetry program with a view toward international harmonization
Biodosimetry of astronaut lymphocyte samples, taken prior to- and post-flight, provides an important in vivo measurement of radiation-induced damage incurred during space flight which can be included in the medical records of the astronauts. Health Canada has been developing their astronaut biodosimetry program since 2007 and since then has analyzed data from 7 astronauts. While multiple cytogenetic endpoints may be analyzed for the astronauts, the Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) assay is considered to be key for detecting long-lasting stable damage. It is believed that this long-lasting damage is most likely to lead to an increased risk to the health of the astronauts during long-term flights (lasting 6 months or more). The complexity of damage that results from protracted, non-homogeneous radiation exposure, like that found in the space environment, requires a detailed scoring schematic to capture as much information as possible. To that end, this paper outlines the efforts to harmonize the manner in which Health Canada’s FISH data are recorded to better facilitate the comparison of results with other international biodosimetry programs.
The ISS and the prior station Mir provided the proving ground for future human long-duration space activity. A recent European Space Agency study recommended “Measurement campaigns on the ISS form the ideal tool for experimental validation of radiation environment models, of transport code algorithms and reaction cross sections”. Indeed, prior measurements on Shuttle have provided vital information impacting both transport code and environmental model development. Recent studies using the ISS 7A configuration with TLD area monitors demonstrated that computational dosimetry requires environmental models with accurate anisotropic and dynamic behavior, detailed information on rack loading, and an accurate 6 degree-of-freedom description of the ISS trajectory. The ISS model is now configured for 11A and uses an anisotropic and dynamic geomagnetic transmission and trapped proton models. The ISS 11A is instrumented with both passive and active dosimetric devices. Time resolved measurements have the advantage of isolating trapped proton and galactic cosmic ray components as was essential to transport code validation in Shuttle data analysis. ISS 11A model validation will begin with passive dosimetry as was used with ISS 7A. Directional dependent active measurements will play an important role in the validation of environmental model anisotropies.
Tests of shielding effectiveness of Kevlar and Nextel onboard the International Space Station and the Foton-M3 capsule
Radiation assessment and protection in space is the first step in planning future missions to the Moon and Mars, where mission and number of space travelers will increase and the protection of the geomagnetic shielding against the cosmic radiation will be absent. In this framework, the shielding effectiveness of two flexible materials, Kevlar and Nextel, were tested, which are largely used in the construction of spacecrafts. Accelerator-based tests clearly demonstrated that Kevlar is an excellent shield for heavy ions, close to polyethylene, whereas Nextel shows poor shielding characteristics. Measurements on flight performed onboard of the International Space Station and of the Foton-M3 capsule have been carried out with special attention to the neutron component; shielded and unshielded detectors (thermoluminescence dosemeters, bubble detectors) were exposed to a real radiation environment to test the shielding properties of the materials under study. The results indicate no significant effects of shielding, suggesting that thin shields in low-Earth Orbit have little effect on absorbed dose.
Benchmark studies of the effectiveness of structural and internal materials as radiation shielding for the international space station
Accelerator-based measurements and model calculations have been used to study the heavy-ion radiation transport properties of materials in use on the International Space Station (ISS). Samples of the ISS aluminum outer hull were augmented with various configurations of internal wall material and polyethylene. The materials were bombarded with high-energy iron ions characteristic of a significant part of the galactic cosmic-ray (GCR) heavy-ion spectrum. Transmitted primary ions and charged fragments produced in nuclear collisions in the materials were measured near the beam axis, and a model was used to extrapolate from the data to lower beam energies and to a lighter ion. For the materials and ions studied, at incident particle energies from 1037 MeV/nucleon down to at least 600 MeV/nucleon, nuclear fragmentation reduces the average dose and dose equivalent per incident ion. At energies below 400 MeV/nucleon, the calculation predicts that as material is added, increased ionization energy loss produces increases in some dosimetric quantities. These limited results suggest that the addition of modest amounts of polyethylene or similar material to the interior of the ISS will reduce the dose to ISS crews from space radiation; however, the radiation transport properties of ISS materials should be evaluated with a realistic space radiation field.
Absorbed dose and average linear energy transfer (LET) were assessed by means of (7)LiF:Mg,Ti (TLD-700) thermoluminescent (TL) detectors for different panels on-board the Russian Segment of the International Space Station in the timeframe between March and November 2002 (233 d). A technique is presented to correct the measured absorbed dose values for TL efficiency in the radiation climate on-board the spacecraft. Average LET is determined from the high-temperature TL emission in the TLD-700 glow curve and used as a parameter in the TL efficiency correction. Depending on the shielding distribution, the efficiency-corrected absorbed dose varies between 154 +/- 5 microGy d(-1) in panel no. 327 (core block ceiling) and 191 +/- 3 microGy d(-1) in panel no. 110 (core block central axis, floor). The experimental data are compared with the model calculations by using detailed shielding distributions and orbit parameters as inputs.