Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports that marine plankton was discovered on the surface of the International Space Station. How did the plankton, along with other microscopic particles, reach the ISS? It was not found in the launch site area, so it’s suspected that air currents carried this ocean-dweller to the upper regions of Earth’s atmosphere. While the ISS is in a low enough orbit to be considered within the atmosphere, it is still subject to low gravity, low temperatures, and high amounts of solar radiation. Not only is the plankton surviving these extreme conditions, it appears to be growing!
Could these microbes provide insight into what life may look like on other planets? Is this support for the panspermia hypothesis – the idea that microbes could travel from planet to planet via contaminated space rocks? Maybe some of our freshwater bacteria are up there, too!
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