Editorial: 3rd International Workshop on Space Microbiology

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    This issue is dedicated to microbial research in space on the occasion of the 3rd International Workshop on Space Microbiology that took place from 22 to 25 May (2005) at the Belgian
    Research Center for Nuclear Energy (SCK-CEN). This meeting was co-sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) and SCK-CEN, and was a continuation of similar scientific encounters organized by JAXA in Tokyo (November 2002) and by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center (Florida, USA, March 2004). This issue reporting on the Mol workshop broadly complements the special issue published earlier to commemorate the Tokyo meeting (Microb. Ecol. 47 (2004) 115–196). It attempts to illustrate the six themes (microbial contamination survey, space flight effects on microorganisms, planetary protection, bioinformatics, extreme environments and astrobiology, and life support) covered by the scientific program of the
    Mol conference, which brought together 103 participants from 17 nations presenting 29 oral communications and 27 posters.
    The relationship between the topics covered at the meeting becomes more apparent when we consider the extent to which they overlap. For instance, astrobiologists look at traces of extraterrestrial life (and thus indirectly focus on the origin of life).
    Their discipline largely relies on the vast knowledge gathered throughout the years of studying bacterial life in a wide variety of extreme earth conditions and locations. Studies of microorganisms that were found in earth biotopes that resemble certain locations on Mars are particularly relevant. Astrobiologists also search for geological hints of extraterrestrial life by scrutinizing ancient rocks found on Earth (e.g. vulcanic rocks and meteorites) that may have witnessed very harsh terrestrial conditions a few billion years ago. This knowledge is of importance in the use of local conditions on Mars or other planets for the production of biomass or oxygen or any conditions that would help to sustain life. The link to life support is obvious as it implies the use of plant or microbes as bioregenerative tools during long-duration spaceflights or in permanent planetary stations. This entails the regeneration of air and water and the recycling of various types of waste as well as the production of food. Sustainable life support also implies the early detection of any microbial threats that could either jeopardize the proper functioning of the life support system itself or impair the health of the human crew.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages4
    JournalResearch in Microbiology
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2006

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Microbiology
    • Molecular Biology

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