Living sea plankton found in space

Russian scientists say they have found traces of sea plankton on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS), proving that life can survive in the harsh conditions of space.

Russian ISS orbital mission chief Vladimir Solovyev told reporters that the discovery was made during the analysis of samples taken from the illuminators and the surface of the ISS. ITAR-TASS News Agency writes that this confirms, “some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS) for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation.”

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov (right) and Oleg Artemyev, both Expedition 40 flight engineers, participate in a session of extravehicular activity (EVA). (Credit: NASA/STSCI)

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov (right) and Oleg Artemyev, both Expedition 40 flight engineers, participate in a session of extravehicular activity (EVA). (Credit: NASA/STSCI)

The experiments not only found that the sea plankton has survived on the ISS surface, but that they could develop.

How the plankton got onto the surface of the ISS is still not known. The plankton could have hitched a ride, or, according to Yahoo! News Australia, Solovyev offered another possibility, “It means that there are some uplifting air currents which reach the station and settle on its surface.”

Solovyev says, “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.”

If life can survive adrift in space, it gives credence to the idea that life on earth could have originated from elsewhere. It just hitched a ride on a rock or chunk of ice. It also means that life can flourish in much harsher environments than previously thought. Space itself could harbor living creatures.

UPDATE 8/20/2014

NASA spokesman Dan Huot says they have not confirmed the sea plankton claims. He told Space.com, “As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they’ve found sea plankton.” Roscosmos is Russia’s Federal Space Agency. 

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