Biologist: the possibility of entering the life from space can be considered proven

Biologist: the possibility of entering the life from space can be considered proven© Photo: Institute of biomedical problems of RAS

Vladimir Sychev, one of the founders of satellites «Bion-M», told RIA of «news» about how the Russian biosatellites help us understand how to bring the biosphere into space, as Russian scientists have tested the theory of adding life to Earth from space and shared his thoughts on how the collapse of the «Progress» will affect the Russian space science.

This week in the walls of the RAS Presidium in Moscow hosted the international conference on space medicine and biology, conducted by the Institute of biomedical problems, Russian Academy of Sciences. In the framework of the conference the Russian scientists and their foreign colleagues talked about the latest progress in the study of how space affects human life and other living beings, and revealed the plans for the future.

Vladimir Sychev, Deputy Director on scientific work of Institute of biomedical problems, told the conference about what kind of experiments the Institute and their international colleagues will conduct on Board the new Russian spacecraft «Bion-M2», and how these experiences will affect the preparations for the travels into deep space. He told RIA «Novosti» about the importance of such research to maintain the leadership of Russia in the field of manned cosmonautics.

— So far as I know, you can say that these cuts will not affect the implementation of the program of «Bion». But, really, this is just our point of view, and to say something in this case very difficult.

The money required for the realization of our projects, are very modest compared to those programs which are conducted by the Institute of space research. There really allocated a lot of money, for some projects there are issues, but to judge their condition is, as we look at them from the side. Overall, I can say that while problems have been encountered.

In April 2014, NASA forbade its employees to participate in collaboration with Russian scientists. Whether this affected the analysis of the results of the experiments on Board the «Bion-M» and is this a problem with the «Bion-M2»?

— Actually, the problems with the first «Bion» were not – no one interfered with our cooperation, and our American colleagues participated in it in full. About the second «Bion» we are now talking and working on options. It is difficult to say whether this is good or bad, but the situation is moving forward.

— In the framework of the past «Bion» you conducted an interesting experiment to test the theory of panspermia, the possibility of entering the life on the Earth from space, and in 2013, you talked about the fact that his conclusions are partly confirmed, but pills with microbes split landing of the probe. Did you manage to learn something new?

— Yes, we were able to detect microbes within these samples, it was found that they survived the landing. It was done as a bacteria-the extremophiles, and ordinary bacilli. So, in principle, the possibility of survival of spores of microorganisms within meteorites is proven.

— However, you still plan to conduct similar experiments on Board the «Bion-M2»?

— We will hold them because, you know, there are a few subtleties. Need to know what temperature to heat the probe housing when entering the atmosphere, as heated on one side and heats as another, and compare that with what’s going on with meteorites. Meteorites, moreover, explode or burn out completely while entering the atmosphere. In General, there are many difficulties, many things that need to be clarified.

On the other hand, if you believe in panspermia, to some extent, we can already say that this is possible. If you do not believe in it, then the fact of the survival of microbes in such circumstances, says nothing by itself.

— Recently, your colleagues from the University of California, Irvine showed in experiments on mice on the ground that prolonged irradiation by cosmic rays leads to a decrease in intellectual abilities. Is it possible to conduct such experiments on biosatellites?

The answer to this question we got at the first «Bion». Our colleagues in experiments on mice found that long life on orbit leads to serious changes in the dopamine system of the brain. This affects the learning ability of rodents dramatically declined after the flight and return to Earth rodents.

— Is it possible with that to fight? You think that flight to Mars or building a base on the moon?

— You know, all of these studies are now in the earliest stages, we are still only beginning to accumulate statistics. We have only started understanding what we encounter in outer space. How to deal with it?

The experience of the astronauts who flew to the moon and lunar orbit, shows that those who went to the surface of the planet, I started to feel back to Earth better than the members of the crews of «Apollo», which remained in orbit. In other words, the options of how to avoid these negative effects can be very different, and we have only begun to explore what causes such effects.

— Is it possible long-term biological experiments in orbit that can last six months or a year, to study such effects?

All you can do if you have the appropriate resources. In principle, animals can be kept in orbit for more than 30 days, but it will require very serious equipment and serious approaches to this task.

Americans, for example, conduct their research on mice aboard the ISS, but still animals spend there not more than 30 days. There are great difficulties associated with the fact that, when you send an organism into space or in any environment that is isolated from the biosphere, you should provide it with a system of life. You need to ensure that the animal will survive throughout this period.

For space flight is a rather difficult task, which probably can be implemented on the ISS, but certainly not on Board the biosatellites. Moreover, long-term experiments with animals are not always what we need.

For example, if we take a typical lifespan of mouse and compare it to the length of human life, then the 30 day flight to the rodent will be approximately equal to two years ‘ stay in space for us. Using similar principles, we are considering the consequences for people using the data that we collect on the biosatellites. And in addition, a record duration flight to date is a year and a half.

Besides, there is a significant difference between animals and astronauts – the last one actively fighting the negative impact of weightlessness on their bodies, and the animals are directly inside of this weightlessness, and any prevention they have. And so what we see in experiments on animals, on humans we often cannot see due to the fact that these effects are avoided by the means with which we develop in order to allow astronauts to return to Earth healthy.

Therefore research on animals is important to us – with their help, we can see the effects that we see in the human body, but do not understand their depth.

— Do you consider possible renovation of the greenhouse on the ISS, and if so, how important is it for the Russian space science in the context of a possible gap with China and the United States and to progress in creating bioregeneration systems to fly in deep space?

— Speaking at the conference, I said that we are now in a dangerous situation, we can say that today we are finishing the last achievements that were obtained 40 years ago in the Soviet Union.

In General, the problem of human existence outside of the biosphere is very difficult and complex issue which cannot be reduced to some specific task — you can’t just say that we need to create a life support system for a lunar base or for Martian spacecraft.

All of these tasks is much broader and harder – Americans have long tried to create a copy of the Earth’s biosphere during the experiments, John Allen and Mark Nelson in Arizona in 1993. They went on the road full backup of the planet’s biosphere, but they have failed because their «Biosphere 2» was the fact that there is in Earth’s biosphere.

The fact that the biosphere has a huge buffering – we are surrounded by air and water of the ocean, and the huge masses of soil and rocks. We are now emitted huge amounts of carbon that have been accumulating under the earth millions and billions years as a result of operation of biological systems. Only now we have started to notice some changes, although not yet entirely clear whether they are related to these actions of mankind.

Why am I still talking? Biological systems are much broader than one greenhouse, serving as a source of oxygen. Thus, the loss of «Lady» is a very hurtful thing. Try or don’t try to restore it we will succeed or not succeed is another question.

All this does not negate the fact that experiments with plants will still continue. Plants may play different roles in human life in space – they can be sources of vitamins, to help the crew with the psycho-physiological point of view. For example, the crew of the project «Mars-500» had the opportunity to grow or flowers or lettuce in the greenhouse. Analysis of how these factors affect a person’s life that are critical to us.