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Lichens... In... Space...

One more organism has taken a giant leap and gone into space, the humble lichen (really more than one species, as we all know that lichens are composites of algae and fungi). The European Space agency removed the lichens from the comfort of their rock dwelling and blasted them off on a Soyuz rocket where they were subjected to the cold vacuum of space for just under 15 days. Their tough mineral coating seemingly protecting them from the whole spectrum of UV radiation and cosmic rays. The two

By | November 10, 2005

One more organism has taken a giant leap and gone into space, the humble lichen (really more than one species, as we all know that lichens are composites of algae and fungi). The European Space agency removed the lichens from the comfort of their rock dwelling and blasted them off on a Soyuz rocket where they were subjected to the cold vacuum of space for just under 15 days. Their tough mineral coating seemingly protecting them from the whole spectrum of UV radiation and cosmic rays. The two species of lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans) turned dormant in space, but returned to full and normal metabolic activity on their return. The lichen is to date the most complex organism to survive unprotected in a vacuum in experiments in space, being multicellular and eukaryotic, and more a small ecosystem than an organism, the experiments seem to lend a certain amount of weight to the theories of panspermia - that life could have started elsewhere and then been transported to earth. More information can be found at the ESA's website.
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