The organisms were found after high precision equipment was used to analyze the wipes used to polish the illuminators.
The finding is unique. NASA has yet to comment on whether similar findings were made on the US segment of the ISS.So how did the plankton get onto the ISS in the first place?
The plankton are not native to Baikonur, the area of Russia where the Russian modules of the space station blasted into space from Earth, so contamination prior to being in space is unlikely.
Hopefully, further investigations will shed some light on how microscopic life traveled into space.
What excites me is that finding out how microorganisms came to live on the ISS may bring us closer to understanding how life came to exist on Earth.
Amazingly, the little plankton, which are usually found on the surface of the ocean, were not only living on the ISS, but they seem to be developing there as well.
There are organisms that live in extreme environments, such as deep sea vents, geysers, and nuclear waste.
These extremophiles often cannot live in what humans consider normal conditions.
Plankton, however, produce energy from carbon and water and the maximum rate of cell division doubles for every 10 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, meaning they do best in a warm and wet environment, such as the ocean surface.
This is a far cry from the harsh vacuum of space with extreme temperature fluctuations and cosmic radiation.
The plankton’s appearance on the ISS and its ability to survive and grow in space leads to the exciting possibility that life from our planet may be spreading to other planets.
Imagine worlds a few billion years in the future where Earth’s little plankton has evolved into all new ecosystems and even intelligent life!