MUE - Miller Urey Experiment

Project: Research project

Project Details


IKS is developing together with Joanneum Research and the Belgian company Qinetiq the flight model of the so-called Miller Urey Experiment which will be carried in the COLUMBUS module of the International Space Station ISS. The experiment is based on the famous proof by Prof.Stanley Miller and Prof. Harold Urey that formation of amino acids from elementary gases in the early earth's atmosphere takes place when sufficient energy (by lightnings) is induced. European Space Agency awarded a contract to the Consortium to develop the experiment to carry out this experiment in zero-gravity environment. Water which is instrumental in the process is supposed to be provided by cosmic dust covered by ice. The experiment consists of 6 vials with different gas mixtures (mixture 1: methane, ammoniac, hydrogen; mixture 2: hydrogen nitrogen, carbon monoxide) and silicate particles covered by ice. These elementary gasses are supposed to have existed in the early Earth atmosphere. They also exist in Space in the solar nebula. Therefore there is the possibility that amino acids, simple building blocks of organic life, may be formed outside the Earth. Peltier coolers ensure operations below freezing point. Piezo shakers operating at ultrasonic frequencies inhibit sticking of particles to the inner surface of the vials. A space-qualified high-voltage generator provides the energy for the reaction process inside the vials. A special computer system controls and monitors the proper operations of the experiment and interfaces with the ISS telemetry. Upload of the experiment may be carried out by the unmanned Russian PROGRESS, the new European ATV or the Space-X DRAGON spacecraft. The experiment will make use of the MSG Glove Box and the MELFI freezer in the European COLUMBUS module. After approx. 200 hours of operations the astronauts will dismantle the vials and pre-cool them in MELFI. Download of the vials will be done with the Space-X spacecraft for later analysis of the reaction products in ground laboratories.
Effective start/end date13/12/0731/05/14


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