Can microorganisms survive in space?

Outer space is not friendly to live in; low pressure, extreme temperature, and radiation can easily and quickly destroy DNA and cell membranes. Some life forms that find themselves in the void would die sooner unless they bonded together.

Microorganisms like viruses and bacteria can certainly survive in space, as several experiments have shown.

Over 250 different species of bacteria and fungi have been discovered to be able to survive and, even more shocking, thrive in outer space.

Can microorganisms survive in space?

Viruses are everywhere, some causing illness while some don’t. Based on the topic, the ability for them to survive outside space is complicated. However, viruses can survive in a pressurized and low-gravity environment.

Now, viruses are not alive, they replicate inside a living host organism and are then termed “living.” If a naked virus is taken to outer space and is ejected off the spaceship into space, the virus (which is not living) freezes and is either destroyed or lost in space.

Viruses inside objects such as steroids may fare better, but they still need a host to survive for a long time.

Without a living host, most viruses can only survive a week.

There are two kinds of viruses, namely, enveloped viruses and non-enveloped viruses.

Enveloped viruses, if not properly contained, can be rendered useless by irreversible damage caused by sunlight. These viruses use their envelope to interact with and attack their host.

Non-enveloped virus when exposed to sunlight in space


Akihiko Yamagishi an astrologist estimates that 1000 micrometer bacteria could survive eight years floating through space.

Dinococcus bacteria is found on earth and was nicknamed “a bacterium” for its ability to withstand cold, dehydration, and acids. It is known as the most radiation-resistant life form.

It can resist 3000 times the amount of radiation that would kill a human. Bacteria spores can withstand UV radiation.

Bacteria tend to multiply in higher numbers and are more resilient to antibiotics when they are on Earth. Molecular activity within and outside the bacterial cell is limited without gravity.

The bacteria is pushed into an object simulation mode and exhibits traits that are unique to a low-gravity environment but not every type of bacteria will respond in a similar way.

In a sterile environment without other organisms, they multiply and thrive. Cosmic radiation helps them to mutate instead of killing them and they grow faster than they normally do on earth.

A bacteria known as oil-20 survived for over a year and a half outside of the International Space Station.


Surviving algae belonging to the Sarcocystis species and cyanobacteria were studied and analyzed to survive outside space.

The algae species protects itself by entering a dormant state, arranging cysts rich in carotenoids and thick walls.

Archaea may survive for millions of years within brine inclusions in salt crystals. Halobacterium halobium is not able to survive such conditions (outer space) unprotected because they are exposed to strains of UV and proton radiation that correspond to obstructing 300 years on Mars.

The first halophilic archeon to be exposed to outer space was Halorubium chaoviator sp.

Tardigrades are a class of microscopic animals with eight limbs. There are hundreds of species and many species live in water while the rest are on land, you find moss and lichen.

Tardigrades are the first known animal to survive after exposure to space. They were in a dormant state and become atrophied into a ball and expel most of the water in their body.

They lower their cryptobiosis to a better-suited environment able to sustain life.


Microorganisms tend to thrive in outer space environments due to enhanced growth parameters and the ability to multiply in the presence of restrictive levels of antibiotics.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Our Editorial Team