Russian cosmonaut says that swabs of the outside of the ISS contain “deep space bacteria.”
Whaaaat? This whole story sounds bizzare to me. It seems unlikely – other sources that I found discussing the story went off into “Russia propaganda” conspiracy-land; apparently the idea is that the Russians may be lying about this in order to get space news, or something.
I’m baffled. What do you think? [cnet]
Shkaplerov told the Russian news agency TASS that cosmonauts collected the bacteria by swabbing the outside of the space station during space walks years ago.
“And now it turns out that somehow these swabs reveal bacteria that were absent during the launch of the ISS module,” Shkapkerov told TASS. “That is, they have come from outer space and settled along the external surface. They are being studied so far and it seems that they pose no danger.”
I would think that those bacteria would be extremely interesting and we would have heard about them long before now. Especially, if they were detected years ago. Yet, there are other reports of “Sea Plankton” being collected on the ISS: [space]
A Russian official claims that samples collected by cosmonauts show evidence of sea plankton on the outside of the International Space Station, news agencies are reporting.
Cosmonauts on the orbiting outpost have allegedly discovered trace amounts of sea plankton and other microscopic organisms living on the outside of the station, exposed to the vacuum of space, according to a news story quoting space station official Vladimir Solovyov.
However, NASA has not confirmed the reports. “As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they’ve found sea plankton,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot said. Roscosmos is Russia’s Federal Space Agency.
Naturally, I immediately suspected that it’s tardigrades – those lovably semi-indestructible critters that are, basically, a space suit.
I hadn’t realized it but it stands to reason that even at the upper reaches of atmosphere, there is going to be low-pressure hardy life. I assumed that the ISS is high enough that there’s no atmosphere, otherwise it’d get drag, slow down, and heat up (eventually heating up quite a lot). It really makes me wonder, though – there were nuclear tests in the 60s that were so huge they carried stuff all the way up to the edge of the atmosphere.
We’ve sent bacteria to Mars, already. [mic]
Spacecraft and associated clean-room assembly-facility surfaces harbour an extremely low biomass (La Duc et al., 2003; Venkateswaran et al., 2001), because of stringent maintenance. However, colonization by micro-organisms specifically adapted to such facility conditions, especially those yet to be cultured and/or characterized, is of major concern to those commissioning modern-day space-related experimentation. The search for extraterrestrial life will rely heavily on validated cleaning and bioreduction strategies to ensure that terrestrial microbial contamination does not compromise the scientific integrity of such missions. It is crucial both to minimize and eradicate such microbial contaminants and to identify and characterize the recurring, prevalent micro-organisms associated with the surfaces of spacecraft and associated environments.
I had never really thought about it, before, but now I realize that a planet with life resembles a great misty swamp crawling with stuff that’s alive everywhere. Stuff that does nothing but breed (“infect”) and eat (“infect”) things. And evolve. Any ALIEN intelligent enough to get close to a planet with life would nuke it from orbit and not get anywhere close. It certainly wouldn’t swoop down on the denizens and sample poop bacteria from their anuses.
I’m going to use pretty much any excuse to post pictures of tardigrades.