Caenorhabditis elegans survives atmospheric breakup of STS-107, space shuttle Columbia. Academic Article uri icon


  • The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a popular organism for biological studies, is being developed as a model system for space biology. The chemically defined liquid medium, C. elegans Maintenance Medium (CeMM), allows axenic cultivation and automation of experiments that are critical for spaceflight research. To validate CeMM for use during spaceflight, we grew animals using CeMM and standard laboratory conditions onboard STS-107, space shuttle Columbia. Tragically, the Columbia was destroyed while reentering the Earth's atmosphere. During the massive recovery effort, hardware that contained our experiment was found. Live animals were observed in four of the five recovered canisters, which had survived on both types of media. These data demonstrate that CeMM is capable of supporting C. elegans during spaceflight. They also demonstrate that animals can survive a relatively unprotected reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, which has implications with regard to the packaging of living material during space flight, planetary protection, and the interplanetary transfer of life.

published proceedings

  • Astrobiology

altmetric score

  • 71.638

author list (cited authors)

  • Szewczyk, N. J., Mancinelli, R. L., McLamb, W., Reed, D., Blumberg, B. S., & Conley, C. A.

citation count

  • 59

complete list of authors

  • Szewczyk, Nathaniel J||Mancinelli, Rocco L||McLamb, William||Reed, David||Blumberg, Baruch S||Conley, Catharine A

publication date

  • January 2005