Algae survived 16 months in space outside of the ISS

Algae can survive exposure in space for a long duration of time, according to the results of a relatively recent experiment aboard (sort of) the International Space Station. The results have been described as 'astonishing,' with researchers finding that despite exposure to the vacuum of space, extreme temperature changes, and both UV and cosmic radiation, the algae was able to survive for 16 months on the exterior of the ISS, demonstrating an incredible hardiness.

According to Fraunhofer, this experiment was conducted as part of the Biology and Mars Experiment (BIOMEX) project, and it involved so-called "cold loving" cryophilic strains of algae. It has been well established by long term research that these types of algae are very resistant to destruction at the hands of extreme temperatures and radiation, but the effects of space weren't something researchers could simulation in the laboratory.

In order to put the algae to the ultimate test, samples of a couple strains were delivered to the ISS during the summer of 2014. Neutral density filters were the algae's only source of protection outside of the ISS, helping diminish the effects of radiation somewhat. Sensors kept tabs on the environmental conditions the algae were subjected to over its 16-month mission in space.

Now that the algae has been returned to Earth, researchers are looking into whether the long-term radiation exposure altered or damaged the strains' DNA. This could help lend insight into the effects of exposure on humans who spend long periods of time in space, namely a human mission to Mars. It'll also help researchers understand and develop ways to grow food on the planet to sustain the astronauts.

SOURCE: Fraunhofer