Survival and Development of Photosynthetic Oxygenic Organisms Tolerant to Space Radiation and Production of Compounds with Anti-Oxidant Properties

Photo experiments in future space missions

The International Space Station as it appeared on June 2008 (credits: STS-124 Shuttle Crew, NASA)

Spaceflights on board Foton satellites offered a very great opportunity to test the radioresistance of photosynthetic oxygenic micro organisms during short-term missions in Low-Earth-Orbit. An obvious continuation of the Photo project would be testing the organisms in a longer duration mission, when the biological samples can experience different conditions of the space environment in response to the solar activity. A prolonged exposition to space stresses should give more detailed information regarding the tolerance of the organisms, and this should help in finalizing reliable strategies in support to manned space exploration missions.

One concrete opportunity for a longer exposure to space has been offer by the FEBO PROJECT, for which the Italian Space Agency (ASI) is funding [up to October 2008] the Phase A (the feasibility study). FEBO is one of six projects selected from ASI among those which submitted proposals to the call “Mission of Opportunity”. After the ending of the Phase A, three of the proposals will be selected to take advantage of launch opportunities as, for example, on board the International Space Station.
The FEBO project, submitted by Kaiser Italia s.r.l., foresees the implementation of a facility for experiments to be exposed externally on board the ISS, US segment. Among them there are exobiology and photobiology experiments, and new versions of Photo-I and Photo-II are part of the experimental complex.

If FEBO experiment will be granted, the access to the ISS (foreseen in the period 2010-2012) will give the opportunity to test the organisms in space for a period of 4-8 months. Considering that the period will correspond to maximum of solar activity and different conditions in the space environment are expected with respect to the ones recorded in occasion of the Foton flights, the opportunity offered by FEBO is of great interest for the Photo project goals.