2015.A.3.2. ICE-CUBE for ILSRA 2014


Elke Rabbow (1)
Corinna Panitz (2)
Thomas Berger (1)
David Cullen (3)
Lyle Whyte (4)

  1. Radiation Biology, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, DLR, Germany
  2. Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology, RWTH/Klinikum Aachen, Germany
  3. School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing, Cranfield University, United Kingdom
  4. Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Canada




Astrobiology, ESA, ILSRA 2014, Europa, cryophiles


The proposal ICEcube – Investigating Cold adapted organisms as model organisms for a Europa ocean environment in Cubesat based hardware – was submitted in response to the International Research Announcement for Research in Space Life Sciences at the International Space Station 2014 by an international consortium from Germany, Canada and UK.

The proposed experiment aims at testing the hy-pothesis that selected extremophile microorganisms, survive and multiply in a periodically cold, salty, liquid environment, even when exposed to extra-terrestrial UV and ionizing radiation. Archaea, e.g. Halorubrum lacusprofundi, bacteria, e.g. Planococcus halocryophi-lus from the Canadian high arctic and eukaryotic yeast (Rhodotorula sp. isolated from Antarctic dry valleys) will be investigated in a still to be developed Cubesat H/W with two sample units, similar to O/OREO and upcoming OREOcube experiments.

The test environment in space simulates the envi-ronment just below the surface of the Jupiter moon Europa, which is discussed to be one of the few habita-ble places in our solar system. Though the moon´s sur-face is too hostile to expect any life, the ocean beneath its water ice surface kept liquid by a high salt concentration and heat from tidal forces imposed on the moon from its giant planet may provide the necessary environment to support life similar to Earth´s deep oceans.

Microorganisms will be uploaded and exposed to temperature oscillations in the temperature uncon-trolled H/W, to space radiation and defined irra-diations with extra-terrestrial short wavelength solar radiation, also serving as light source for a spectroradiometer. Increasing measured optical density of the cultures (similar to the O/OREO experiment) indicates growth with time.

The whole set up was proposed for an independent Cubesat-like payload to be accommodated on an external platform of the ISS, but it is also feasible for free flying Cubesats in space, in particular in higher orbits. It will function fully automatically after commissioning according to a pre-set schedule, but with the opportunity to adjust exposure times by telecommand. Spectroradiometer data and environmental temperature data are transmitted to Earth for analysis regularly together with housekeep-ing/health data.

Exposure time is expected to be approximately 6 months. Sample return to Earth after fixation for addi-tional investigations is an option for exposure on the ISS. A flight identical ground experiment will be per-formed in parallel to the mission according to the mis-sion data in the Planetary and Space Simulation facili-ties at DLR. The experiment will increase our knowledge on the limits of life.


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