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An astrobiology experiment where desiccated rotifers are exposed to the space environment outisde ISS, addressing the following questions:

  1. What are the limits of life?
  2. Can bdelloid rotifers survive space vacuum, UV, cosmic radiation exposure?
  3. What are the consequences? Which mechanisms are involved?


2 series (Rob-1 and Rob-2) of experiments inside ISS, mainly using the KUBIK ESA incubator.  The research team will address the following questions:

  1. Rob-1 (using hydrated Adineta vaga rotifers): how is this micro-organism affected by space travel inside ISS?
  2. Rob-2 (using desiccated Adineta vaga rotifers): are DNA repair mechanisms affected by space environment? Can rotifers with a broken genome be rehydrated in microgravity and start DNA repair, as on earth? Do they reproduce and are the descendants still identical to the parental line?

Project abstract

Bdelloid rotifers are found all over the world, mostly in semi-terrestrial environments and appear to be extremely stress tolerant. Their desiccation tolerance at any stage of their life cycle is known to confer tolerance to a variety of stresses including high doses of radiation and freezing.

Bdelloid rotifers appear to survive such extreme conditions because of an efficient antioxidant and DNA repair mechanism.

Pr. Karine Van Doninck and Dr. Boris Hespeels designed simple experiments in order to answer the following key questions, using rotifers as a new model system for space research:

  1. How microgravity and space flight are affecting biological processes of A. vaga?
  2. What are the limits of bdelloids extreme resistance to radiation?
  3. What are the molecular mechanisms involved in protection and repair of damage induced by different radiation sources?
  4. Are microgravity and space flight affecting protection and repair mechanisms of A. vaga?

The RISE (Rotifers in SpacE) project is carried out under a programme funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) in the framework of the PRODEX Programme.