·

Phobos-Grunt and Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment or “LIFE”

living-interplanetary-flight-experiment-fobos-grunt-mars-life

Phobos-Grunt is the first Russian-led interplanetary mission since the failed Mars 96. The spacecraft is also carrying the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the tiny Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment funded by the Planetary Society.

Lift-off occurred successfully at 20:16 GMT on 8 November 2011 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, but the spacecraft failed to depart Earth orbit shortly afterwards.  If it can be rescued, the spacecraft is scheduled to reach Mars’ orbit in September 2012 and land on Phobos in February 2013. The return vehicle, carrying up to 200 g of soil from Phobos, would then be expected back on Earth in August 2014.

The current parking orbit is too low to be stable. Unless Russian engineers can get that engine to fire, it will all reenter in about three weeks. Unfortunately, the assembly contains about 10 tons of the highly toxic propellants unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

Also on board are two hitchhiker payloads: a small orbiter called Yinghuo 1, intended to be the first Chinese craft to reach Mars; and the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment, funded by the Planetary Society, designed to transport a small sealed container with 10 types of microorganisms to Mars and back.

 

Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment – LIFE

The Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment (LIFE or Phobos LIFE) is an interplanetary mission developed by the Planetary Society. It consists of sending selected microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary round-trip in a small capsule aboard the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft in 2011, which is a sample-return mission to the Martian moon Phobos. 

The goal was to test whether selected organisms can survive a few years in deep space by flying them through interplanetary space. The experiment suppose to test one aspect of transpermia, the hypothesis that life could survive space travel, if protected inside rocks blasted by impact off one planet to land on another.

The project includes representatives of all three domains of life: bacteria, eukaryota and archaea. The capsule was transporting 10 types of organisms in 30 self-contained samples, each is flown in triplicate for better science results. In addition, one or more natural native soil samples are flown in their own self contained capsule. The Phobos-Soil sample return mission was the only scheduled mission that suppose to return to Earth from deep space, far beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetic field; sending biological samples through deep space is therefore a much better test of interplanetary survivability than sending the samples on a typical Earth-orbiting flight.

Barry E. DiGregorio, the director of the International Committee Against Mars Sample Return, criticised the LIFE experiment on the Fobos-Grunt mission as a violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 due to its risk of contaminating Phobos or Mars with the microbial spores and live bacteria it contains. The Planetary Society is committed to following international planetary protection guidelines.

While the mission suposse to lands and returns from Phobos, a moon of Mars, the risk to Mars itself is from the possibility of Fobos-Grunt losing control and crash landing on the planet. It is speculated that the heat-resistant extremophile bacteria would be particularly able to survive such a crash, on the basis that heat resistant bacteria Microbispora survived the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Prior to the Phobos LIFE experiment, a precursor LIFE prototype was flown in 2011 aboard the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, the Shuttle-LIFE (also called LIFE) experiment, which worked flawlessly. (Wikipedia)

Here we present the final list of organisms that was onboard:

The LIFE Organisms

Domain

Organism

Provided by

Bacteria    
1 Bacillus safensis f036b,ATCC- BAA-1126 ATCC
2 Bacillus subtilis 168
ATCC® 23857™
2 tubes by Rettberg, and 1 by ATCC
3 Bacillus subtilis MW01 Rettberg
4 Deinococcus radiodurans
ATCC® BAA-816™
ATCC
 
Eukaryotea  
5 Saccharomyces cerevisiae Strain W303. ATCC® 200060™ ATCC
6 Arabidopsis thaliana Warmflash (with packing at ATCC)
7 Tardigrades Ingemar Jönsson
Archaea
8 Haloarcula marismortui ATCC 43049 ATCC
9 Pyrococcus furiosus ATCC® 43587™ (DSM-3638) ATCC
10 Methanothermobacter wolfeii ATCC with input from Timothy Kral
Native sample  
  Arid soil sample from Negev Vorobyova

Source: PlanetarySociety

If you value what we do here, create your ad-free account and support our journalism.

Share:

Related articles



Your support makes a difference

Dear valued reader,

We hope that our website has been a valuable resource for you.

The reality is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to maintain and grow this website. We rely on the support of readers like you to keep providing high-quality content.

If you have found our website to be helpful, please consider making a contribution to help us continue to bring you the information you need. Your support means the world to us and helps us to keep doing what we love.

Support us by choosing your support level – Silver, Gold or Platinum. Other support options include Patreon pledges and sending us a one-off payment using PayPal.

Thank you for your consideration. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Teo Blašković

$5 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$50 /year

$10 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$100 /year

$25 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$200 /year

You can also support us on Patreon

support us on patreon

or by sending us a one-off payment using PayPal:


Commenting rules and guidelines

We value the thoughts and opinions of our readers and welcome healthy discussions on our website. In order to maintain a respectful and positive community, we ask that all commenters follow these rules:

  • Treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Stay on topic and contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Do not use abusive or hateful language.
  • Do not spam or promote unrelated products or services.
  • Do not post any personal information or content that is illegal, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate.

We reserve the right to remove any comments that violate these rules. By commenting on our website, you agree to abide by these guidelines. Thank you for helping to create a positive and welcoming environment for all.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *