While Kombucha, the beverage the ancient Chinese referred to as “Immortal Health Elixir,” has been around as a healthy tea for centuries, yeast and bacteria which make it have been found outside of the International Space Station (ISS).
Though the tough multicellular biofilms would probably survive an unprotected trip through space, there is only one way to tell for sure and that is why the Kombucha-making organisms and other biological specimens are now circling Earth exposed to space.
The Expose-R2 facility is flying 758 samples grouped into four experiments, with the Kombucha cultures part of the Biomex experiment.
Kombucha cultures protect themselves against adverse conditions by making a cellulose-based structure to resist high temperatures and radiation. The biofilm is thick enough to see with the naked eye, even though it is created by microorganisms.
Studies on Earth have shown that amino acids – the building blocks for proteins – survive aspects of spaceflight better when mixed with meteorite dust. Several meteorites found on Earth contain an assortment of amino acids, obviously of extraterrestrial origin. It seems likely that amino acids can be found hidden in comets and asteroids such as Rosetta’s comet 67P.
Researchers are eagerly awaiting the results of Expose-R2 but have to be patient as the samples would not be returned to Earth for analysis until next year.