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In our several decades of spaceflight have we ever exposed any living organism to space? I'm pretty sure this hasn't happened to Humans, but have we jettisoned some lab rats into space ("for science") on purpose or by accident?

Note: I'm not including extremophile bacteria that can live in space.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would you be interested in earth-based experiments exposing say, dogs to vacuum? (That is, not actual space exposure.) Because these were done in the past and I'm sure they have been mentioned here before. (Possibly mentioned in comments, as I did a quick search and couldn't find them mentioned in answers.) $\endgroup$ – Andy Aug 22 '16 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Andy Preferable space (as its much harsher), but if you want to include more in your answer that would be great $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica Aug 22 '16 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ "I'm pretty sure this hasn't happened to Humans" unfortunately it has: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_11#Death_of_crew $\endgroup$ – user3087 Aug 22 '16 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ do bacteria count? $\endgroup$ – Manu H Aug 23 '16 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ Would Soyuz 11 crew count for 'any living thing'? $\endgroup$ – SF. Aug 23 '16 at 8:08
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Not quite sure what you mean by "directly", but yes, animals have been exposed to the vacuum of space.

The European Space Agency (ESA) conducted an experiment called Biopan on the Russian satellite Foton 11 in 1997/1998 where Artemia (brine shrimp) were exposed to the vacuum and radiation of space. This was not the first time either. CNES (the French space agency) conducted an earlier experiment with Artemia on the Soviet satellites Bion 6 and Bion 8 in the 1980s.

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  • $\begingroup$ By directly I mean no spacesuit $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica Aug 22 '16 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ "By directly I mean no spacesuit" You seem to be adding further conditions bit by bit. That detail should be in the question, not a comment. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Thompson Aug 22 '16 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewThompson Thats the only clarification I've made. I really don't see where you are coming from $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica Aug 22 '16 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg Then, there was in fact no spacesuit, though I'm not sure how that is relevant to brine shrimp. They had no radiation or vacuum protections though, so perhaps that is what you mean. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 22 '16 at 15:08
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I'm pretty sure this hasn't happened to Humans...

Depends on your definition of 'exposed'...

Soyuz 11 suffered an accidental depressuriation when preparing for reentry, when a valve accidentaly opened; the crew were not wearing spacesuits and had no protection against depressuriation. The cabin was in vacuum for around ten minutes before it reentered the atmosphere, long enough to kill the crew.

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    $\begingroup$ So we know 10 minutes is too long. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Robinson Aug 25 '16 at 1:13
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In 1964 and 1965 at Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico a number of chimpanzees were exposed to a vacuum for 30 seconds. They were at 2 mm of mercury, which is 0.038 psi. They were revived with pure oxygen. Their ability to perform tasks were tested after they suffered rapid and total decompression for that time. They all did OK. When Stanley Kubrick first released the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey in 1968 he was so concerned that he would be criticized for the scene where Bowman survived a vacuum that he distributed a pamphlet at the theaters citing the air force experiments. I remember that pamphlet.

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  • $\begingroup$ That was not in space. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 23 '16 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ No but that's a moot point. There is no difference between a vacuum in a chamber and one in space. As far as the biology is concerned, it was space. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Robinson Aug 24 '16 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ OP was not clear that vacuum was the only consideration. Maybe radiation is too. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 24 '16 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ 30 seconds or 86 seconds of cosmic rays and UV would have no detectable effect. One must presume this is about emergency situations like cabin or suit depressurization in which case the radiation environment wouldn't change. Even if someone were to attempt a emergency transfer from one ship to another sans suit, like in 2001 & other stories, radiation would have no detectable effect, certainly not in comparison to the various effects of depressurization. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Robinson Aug 25 '16 at 1:04
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In 1996 in a vacuum chamber space suit test Jim le Blanc had his air hose detach and he was exposed to a virtual vacuum at 0.1 psi. It was 87 seconds before the chamber was returned to normal air pressure. The supervising engineer Cliff Hess said “Essentially, he had no pressure on the outside of his body and that’s a very unusual case to get,” He passed out but suffered no effects other than an ear ace.

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Tardigrades ('water bears') have also been exposed to the vacuum of space.

They were on the Biopan-6 research platform provided by European Space Agency (ESA), and were sent into space with the russian FOTON-M3.

See the TARDIS blog for an overview.

Paper: Tardigrades survive exposure to space in low Earth orbit
K. Ingemar Jönsson, Elke Rabbow, Ralph O. Schill, Mats Harms-Ringdahl, Petra Rettberg

Vacuum (imposing extreme dehydration) and solar/galactic cosmic radiation prevent survival of most organisms in space. Only anhydrobiotic organisms, which have evolved adaptations to survive more or less complete desiccation, have a potential to survive space vacuum, and few organisms can stand the unfiltered solar radiation in space.
Tardigrades, commonly known as water-bears, are among the most desiccation and radiation-tolerant animals and have been shown to survive extreme levels of ionizing radiation.
Here, we show that tardigrades are also able to survive space vacuum without loss in survival, and that some specimens even recovered after combined exposure to space vacuum and solar radiation. These results add the first animal to the exclusive and short list of organisms that have survived such exposure.

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