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Thread: Lichen Can Survive in Space

  1. #1
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    Lichen Can Survive in Space

    SUMMARY: Scientists have found that hardy bacteria can survive a trip into space, and now the list of natural astronauts includes lichen. During a recent experiment by ESA, lichen astronauts were placed on board the Foton-M2 rocket and launched into space where they were exposed to vacuum, extreme temperatures and ultraviolet radiation for 14.6 days. Upon analysis, it appears that the lichens handled their spaceflight just fine, in fact, they're so hardy, it's possible they could survive on the surface of Mars.

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  2. #2
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    This was a really surprising experiment & the results are extraordinary! I know full well lichens have evolved to endure the most harsh conditions on Earth - but who would have thought they could continue to exist in the vacuum of space, the absence of atmosphere & the high levels of UV as well as the extreme cold! Not only that but they also survived to continue their normal activities back on Earth - if only Isaac Asimov had known about this - he would have to rewrite a chapter in his book "Foundation & Earth"!

  3. #3
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    Reminds me of one of the books in The Starchild Trilogy where plant covered asteroids are discovered.

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    Did this article suggest that photosynthesis continued to occur while the lichen was exposed to space? Does anybody know how efficiently lichen converts sunlight into energy compared to a PV cell?

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    If there is one life-form that can approach bacteria in terms of hardiness, it is probably the lichen. They are always the first life to colonize a new area after a major natural disaster.

    Although, I guess "one life-form" is not exactly right, considering a lichen is technically two life-forms (a symbiotic algae cell and fungus cell).

  6. #6
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    I'm surprised that it has taken so long to do the experiment.
    If man is to colonize space at some time in the future, the step after getting there is to terra-form the planet or rock.
    Our biosphere has a vast number of extremophiles, possibly relics of past ages of the biosphere's formation. Any success would help humans survive.
    RodneyK

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Thomas
    Did this article suggest that photosynthesis continued to occur while the lichen was exposed to space? Does anybody know how efficiently lichen converts sunlight into energy compared to a PV cell?
    The lichen went dormant, but did not die. Once they were returned to the Earth's surface they sprang back into activity.

    So why don't we cover the more water rich parts of Mars with these lichen and see what they do?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBlackCat
    If there is one life-form that can approach bacteria in terms of hardiness, it is probably the lichen. They are always the first life to colonize a new area after a major natural disaster.
    That wasn't the finding at Mt St Helens - what surprised the scientists who were studying the recovery there, was that the first life they found recolonising the area were small predators - spiders and stuff. As far as I know, they still haven't figured out why that should be ...
    Lichen, on the other hand, still represents the first complex life to colonise land in the geologic record (ie, the oldest non-marine terrestrial fossils known).

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBlackCat
    Although, I guess "one life-form" is not exactly right, considering a lichen is technically two life-forms (a symbiotic algae cell and fungus cell).
    I think "life-form" is used more broadly than that, otherwise there would be only two or three, and the rest of us living things would be complex symbiotes.

    Lichen for Mars? Interesting, JohnL

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by cran
    That wasn't the finding at Mt St Helens - what surprised the scientists who were studying the recovery there, was that the first life they found recolonising the area were small predators - spiders and stuff. As far as I know, they still haven't figured out why that should be ...
    Offtopic, but the first plant to pop up in the devastated area was horsetail.

    I think the only way to kill it is to use nuclear weapons.

  10. #10
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by aurora
    Offtopic, but the first plant to pop up in the devastated area was horsetail.

    I think the only way to kill it is to use nuclear weapons.
    Eh ...

    It'd Just Make It, ANGRY!!!

    "Oh No, It Is Horsetail, we Must Flee The City!"

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