“As part of ESA’s Expose-R2 project, 46 species of bacteria, fungi and arthropods were delivered by a Progress supply ship to the International Space Station in July 2014. Spacewalking cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev attached the package to the outside of the Zvezda module on 18 August 2014, where it stayed until it was retrieved 18 months later.
This ‘Expose-R2’ is a miniature photochemistry laboratory that exposes samples to the harsh environment of space. Subjected to the full blast of the Sun’s energy as well as vacuum, radiation and temperature swings, they are helping researchers investigating how chemicals and microbiological life react to unprotected spaceflight – on a comet, for example. Previous Expose experiments have already shown that ‘water bears’ and a species of lichen can survive a trip into space.
Expose-R2 was returned inside the International Space Station Station by Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Volkov during a spacewalk on 3 February 2016 and stored ahead of return to Earth. The samples were held in sealed compartments and covered to block out all light. The vacuum of space is sucking out the water, oxygen and other gases in the samples. Their temperature can drop to –12°C ...