Space Station Sunday: Extremeophile Edition

It may be that not all the life aboard the ISS is human. This week, after a spacewalk, it was reported by cosmnauts Olek Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov that plankton is growing on the exterior of the spacecraft.

According to the telegraph.co.uk, it was reported that the two spacefarers were conducting a cleanup operation outside the station when the extreme-living organisms were discovered. Samples were taken for analysis from among the other residue that coats the ISS as a result of its 6,000-odd days in orbit.

This may not be as alien as it sounds. Other organisms may live deeply beneath ice shelves, far below the ocean, or even in the vacuum of space. Theories on the space plankton include ideas that it has been carried up aboard another flight (although the material is inconsistent with growths found around Roscosmos, the Kazakh cosmodrome responsible for most of the space launches to the ISS), or that tiny frozen molecules containing the organisms wafted up from the atmosphere.

NASA has not yet confirmed these findings. Their spokeman, Dan Huot, told space.com that, “As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they've found sea plankton." Russian ISS orbital mission chief Vladimir Solovyev pushed the claim, and was quoted in forbes.com stating, “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further.”

It could be something out of a horror movie...or it could just be a case of the ISS needing a good wash. More news as this story develops...watch this space (station.)

Plankton or planetary invasion?

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