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How the space environment influences organisms: an astrobiological perspective and review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2021

Binod Prasad
Gravitational Biology Group, Department of Biology, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany
Peter Richter
Gravitational Biology Group, Department of Biology, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany
Nithya Vadakedath
CSIR – Institute of Microbial Technology, MTCC, Sector 39A, Chandigarh 160036, India
Ferdinand W. M. Haag
Gravitational Biology Group, Department of Biology, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany
Sebastian M. Strauch
Postgraduate Program in Health and Environment, University of the Region of Joinville – Univille, Joinville, Brazil
Rocco Mancinelli
Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California, USA
Achim Schwarzwälder
Space Biology Unlimited SAS, 24 Cours de l'Intendance, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Emmanuel Etcheparre
Space Biology Unlimited SAS, 24 Cours de l'Intendance, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Nicolas Gaume
Space Biology Unlimited SAS, 24 Cours de l'Intendance, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Michael Lebert
Gravitational Biology Group, Department of Biology, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany Space Biology Unlimited SAS, 24 Cours de l'Intendance, 33000 Bordeaux, France


The unique environment of space is characterized by several stress factors, including intense radiation, microgravity, high vacuum and extreme temperatures, among others. These stress conditions individually or in-combination influence genetics and gene regulation and bring potential evolutionary changes in organisms that would not occur under the Earth's gravity regime (1 × g). Thus, space can be explored to support the emergence of new varieties of microbes and plants, that when selected for, can exhibit increased growth and yield, improved resistance to pathogens, enhanced tolerance to drought, low nutrient and disease, produce new metabolites and others. These properties may be more difficult to achieve using other approaches under 1 × g. This review provides an overview of the space microgravity and ionizing radiation conditions that significantly influence organisms. Changes in the genomics, physiology, phenotype, growth and metabolites of organisms in real and simulated microgravity and radiation conditions are illustrated. Results of space biological experiments show that the space environment has significant scientific, technological and commercial potential. Combined these potentials can help address the future of life on Earth, part of goal e of astrobiology.

Review Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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