Installing the Expose-R2 facility on the International Space Station.
As part of ESA’s Expose-R2 project, 46 species of bacteria, fungi and arthropods were delivered by a Progress supply ship to the Station in July 2014. Spacewalking cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev attached the package to the outside of the Zvezda module on 18 August, where it will stay for 18 months.
The vacuum of space is sucking out the water, oxygen and other gases in the samples. Their temperature can drop to –12°C as the Station passes through Earth’s shadow, rising to 40°C at other times, and undergoing a similar process to the freeze-drying used to preserve foods.
The Expose experiments are exploring the limits of terrestrial life, whether the organisms can survive in space and how the full blast of solar radiation is affecting accompanying chemicals.