EXPOSE is an exposure platform developed by ESA which permits scientists to install test samples for 1 to 2 years at the outer surface of the ISS. In that way, the impact of the open space environment on biological and biochemical sample materials can be explored. This environment, featuring full-spectrum solar light, near-vacuum, cosmic radiation, wide temperature variations and near-weightlessness, is impossible to reproduce in its entirety in the lab. As such, EXPOSE offers astrochemists and astrobiologists a chance to acquire novel scientific data. Astrochemists are interested in Low Earth Orbit conditions due to the fact that photochemistry in space is quite different from photochemistry on Earth, where the high-energy UV compounds of the solar spectrum are filtered away by our atmosphere. As for the astro biologists, EXPOSE offers an attractive opportunity to expand earlier results obtained during short-duration LEO flights, which have shown that particular microbes and, amazingly, even some multi-cellular macroscopic organisms were able to cope with a two-week exposure to space. The open space environment, often described as harsh and hostile, can apparently be tolerated by some robust inhabitants of our Earth - unprotected, in the absence of a space suit! The first mission of EXPOSE, as an external payload on the European Columbus module, happened during 2008-2009 with the test samples provided by five separate research teams. Three additional teams were involved in the monitoring of space environment. The results were published collectively in 2012 in a special issue of the monthly journal Astrobiology. Several organisms survived, having spent 1.5 years in space. The second mission was called EXPOSE-R, the R referring to ‘Russian segment’, the location where the EXPOSE instrument was installed this time. The EXPOSE-R mission took place in 2009-2011, ten science teams were involved. The publication of the results, again as a collection, is currently in preparation. A follow-on mission, EXPOSE-R2, is planned for 2014-2016. The upload of the new sample trays to the ISS will have occurred just before COSPAR 2014. In this presentation the new EXPOSE-R2 experiments are introduced, with an overview of the test samples and the scientific goals. The main characteristics of the EXPOSE platform are addressed including the sensors used to monitor the space environment. The envisaged operational flow in flight and on ground are explained. Moreover, a brief overview of the key lessons learnt from the past EXPOSE missions is provided.
40th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
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