Geobiology in Space Exploration An ESA/Global Topical Team
Microbes and rocks – the planetary scale picture • Microbial interactions with rocks important for: • Long term climate cycle (weathering reactions consume carbon dioxide). • Soil formation • Nutrients to the biosphere • Biomining • Searching for and identifying life in extreme environments
Space Applications • Advantages of Microbes • Can be specific and efficient catalysts • Can be resistant to extreme environments • Have very diverse metabolic capabilities • Low energy requirements • Disadvantages of Microbes • Susceptible to contamination by other strains • Can die • Sometimes growth conditions are quite specific
The flow of information can work both ways • Isolation of useful novel extreme tolerant organisms • Testing of experimental apparatus • Testing of scientific hypotheses in diverse scientific environments
Objectives of Topical Team 1) Encourage the development of a community. 2) Identify potential applications. 3) Define technical objectives and develop mission plans.
Activities so far • Started in 2009 • First meeting in May 6th, 2009, ESTEC, Netherlands • Second meeting, January 18th 2010, ESTEC, Netherlands • Third meeting, February 2011, Marrakech, Morocco • Projects include: • Geobiology in Space Exploration workshop • Developing guidance for ESA (and other agencies) on geobiology • Design of ISS experiment: E-GEM (Extraterrestrial Geomicrobiology Package).
Extraterrestrial Geomicrobiology Package (E-GEM) • To study microbe-mineral interactions in space stress and altered gravity • Investigate efficiency of weathering reactions • Develop prototype biomining apparatus • Experiment went in to review . Scored 85/100 • Now into definition phase for flight
Geobiology in Space Exploration • 7-15 February, Marrakech, 2011 • 53 attendees • 2.5 days of talks • Break-out groups • Substantial 4 day field trip
Geobiology in Space Exploration 2 2013 Possible locations Janet Siefert - Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico Julio Valdivia Silva - Peru
Volcanic Environment Microbial Observatory www.volcaniclife.org
Questions • Microbes in Volcanic Habitats • Who are the first colonizers? • What is the distribution of chemolithotrophs? • Which organisms are active in weathering? • What does this tell us about life elsewhere?
Cold Temperatures • Volcanic environment • Basaltic rocks
Fe3+ Geobacter spp. Fe2+ Gallionella spp.
Molecular diversity of bacteria Sampling of microbial diversity Herrera, A. 2009 et al. Astrobiology 9, 369-38 Cockell, CS et al. 2009 Geobiology 7, 5-65 Kelly, L et al. 2010 Microb. Ecol. 60, 740-752
Dig Here Follow the Kinetics
What’s needed? • Common organism collections • Common methodologies/protocols • Exchange schemes for scientists • Sample distribution/analysis