Mysterious Microbial Life Hitching A Ride On the ISS?

In an experiment conducted to determine the potential accumulation of contaminants on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS), recent reports from the news agency ITAR-TASS, claim the incredible discovery of living micro-organisms.

Vladimir Solovyev, Russia’s ISS Orbital Mission Chief reported on Tuesday: “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface.” Like the rest of us, the Russian cosmonauts are left scratching their heads as to how these these terrestrial tough nuts have managed to cling to the vessel.

Microbes sunbathing on the ISS 🙂

For now, not even the experts can explain how these micro-organisms found their way 330 kilometres above Earth as they’re atypical for the space station’s launch location in Baikanour, Kazakhstan. So, because it’s unlikely they were already on the spacecraft’s hull, the working theory is that uplifting air currents could be carrying the puzzling particles up there…possibly.

NASA spokesman Dan Hout, however, hasn’t given confirmation “As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t heard any official reports from our Roscosmos (Russia’s Federal Space Agency) colleagues…what they’re actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements…that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts…I don’t know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from.”

The worlds favourite Extremeophile
The worlds favourite Extremeophile

But fear not, all you extraterrestrial-hopefuls, there is precedent for certain lifeforms being hardy enough to survive the rocket-ride into space, meet: tardigrades. Known by their pet-name water-bears (or moss piglets, for the real first-name-basis types), tardigrades are water-dwelling, microscopic (ranging anywhere from below 0.05mm to 1.2mm in length) invertebrate powerhouses. They tout the survivability to withstand temperatures ranging from -272.7°C to 148.9°C, the vacuum of space, and all the 1000 atmospheres of pressures, ultraviolet, X-ray and solar radiation that outer space can throw at them. They have the a mind-blowing survival mechanism, enabling them to enter a state coined “tun”, and exercise a process called anhydrobiosis, whereby tardigrades (but not limited to) reduce their metabolism right down to 0.1% of their regular functionality!

It’s the tenacity of these teeny extremophiles (organisms capable of surviving even the harshest of environments) that makes us small rock-dwellers ask some solidly big questions. We now have more reason than ever to ponder the possibility that tardigrades and/or other microorganisms inhabited and evolved on other worlds/universes. Hey, we may all be Martians…or Groupians of other far, far away lands…

Whether you find that comforting or confronting, it’s sure as cosmos is exciting!

Keep On, Questioning On – T.Raynes


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