Characterization of Galdieria sulphuraria’s under atmospheric radiatIon exposure.

The desire for knowledge has accompanied the Man in his evolution, feeding an irresistible attraction towards all that is unknown and leading him to the conclusion that every unexplored horizon must be overcome to reveal what is beyond. First, it was the Columns of Hercules. Then, it was an Ocean. And once we learned to fly, our eyes turned toward the sky. The first step in space exploration was taken in 1957 with Sputnik I and, later, in 1961 with Jurij Gagarin’s first flight in orbit around our planet. Since then, more than 500 astronauts have travelled in space. Nevertheless, the fulfilment of more ambitious projects, as the expansion of human civilization beyond the Earth's boundaries, requires the overcome of various challenges, aiming to the protection of man from the numerous hostilities of space and other planets. In this context the ALTHAIR project is inserted (chAracterization of GaLdieria sulphuraria's under aTmospHeric rAdiatIon exposuRe). The main purpose is to determine the ability of extremophile organisms to withstand space conditions and their ability to shield and absorb radiation. ALTHAIR born from the idea that if these microorganisms, called extremophiles, have managed to endure for billions of years on an Earth that was initially inhospitable to life, then they will necessarily have evolved strategies to survive and, therefore, live. In addition, their use in the space sector can have numerous applications, such as production of O2 from CO2, food, biofuel, recovery of precious and rare metals from electronic wastes, possible strengthening of the shielding layer in current spacesuits. The contribution of extremophile organisms, to the path of science in the understanding of the universe, will allow to reach surprising levels of answer to numerous questions including, for example, the capacity of the development of life on other planets, while opening up new perspectives for its research.

The first results of the project have been acquired both in the laboratory activities and biological, chemical and physical analysis of samples that have been sent to stratosphere using probe balloons with a glider for sample recovery. Until today, a launch was carry out in San Miniato (PI) on 16 February 2020, with a total duration of 3 hours and reaching an altitude of about 30km. The microalgal samples were placed in slabs made with 3D printing technology, equipped with sensors for the detection of gamma rays and neutrons, and placed in the fuselage of a glider. All biological material has been recovered and is currently being studied. Ground tests were also possible to begin to acquire data on the ability of these organisms to shield and/or absorb gamma radiation. The first results are promising but, of course, more tests have been programmed to be able to acquire reliable and reliable data.

In October 2020, a second launch will be made in Catania, in collaboration with the ABACHOS team and the INGV. Subsequently, a further launch was planned in the spring of 2021 in collaboration with ASI, the ABACHOS team and the INGV, which will take place in Sweden and will last for about two months, in which high altitudes will be reached.

Another goal for the ALTHAIR project was the acceptance at IAC 2020, the International Astronautical Congress. The Congress represents a fundamental stage for the future of the project, and it will be possible to expose to space companies, individuals, researchers and the entire scientific world, all the material resulting from the various experiments carried out.

The team is made up of:

    • Altea Renata Maria Nemolato, Life Sciences student (Vanvitelli University)

    • Gianmarco Valletta, Aerospace Engineering student (Federico II University)

    • Claudio Vela, Aerospace Engineering student (Federico II University)

    • Fulvio Petti, Aerospace Engineering student (Federico II University)

    • Andrea Detry, Mechanical Engineering student (Federico II University)

    • Claudia Ciniglia, biological consultant (Researcher – Vanvitelli University)

    • Carlo Sabbarese, physics consultant (Researcher – Vanvitelli University