Led by Dr. Petra Rettberg
In the last decades the number of organisms discovered in regions on Earth, which would have been classified still recently as life-hostile, has increased enormously. Examples of such extremophiles are microorganisms found in hot springs, hydrothermal vents, hot and cold deserts, permafrost soils, glaciers, salt deposits, very acidic or alkaline lakes. The investigation of the fundamental molecular processes responsible for the resistance and adaptability to harsh environmental conditions results in a deeper understanding of the physical and chemical limits of life on Earth and of the habitability of other planets and moons in our solar system.
Projects focussing on research on the viability and adaptability to extreme environmental conditions as they occur in space or on others planets like Mars are accomplished in the research group ‘Astrobiology’ of the Radiation Biology Department. The molecular and cellular mechanisms for the resistance to space-relevant parameters like ionising and non-ionising radiation, desiccation, low pressure/vacuum, temperature extremes and the capability to repair different kinds of damage are investigated in several microbial model organisms. Experiments in space on the International Space Station and on satellites complement laboratory experiments and field research in Mars analogue sites.
The results of these ongoing investigations are also important for the further development of the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) planetary protection guidelines for the future exploration of our solar system.