A new study, which the journal PeerJ has recently published, claims that there are a lot of species that have managed to colonize the International Space Station, apart from the Homo Sapiens. According to this research, which microbiologist David Coil conducted, the interior of the 17-year old space station is home for between 1,000 to 4,000 species of germs. However, no matter how “dirty” this might sound, it is actually a rather good thing that they exist.
Coil says that this is proof of a healthy ecosystem, therefore, a healthy spacecraft. However, according to him, as the humanity considers the possibility of longer voyages into space, like the 18-month Mars journey, we really need to discover what the deal is with those germs. The idea for this study came to Coil when he was part of 2014’s Project MERCCURI. For it, teams of scientists collected germ samples from sports stadiums and sent them to the ISS. The purpose was to see whether or not they would survive.
The International Space Station and its germ collection
As an exchange, the astronauts on the ISS needed to also collect samples from the space station and send them back to Earth. This is how Coil managed to analyze the variety and number of germs there. After research which involved comparing those samples with survey results regarding microbiomes in people’s homes on Earth, the team didn’t find anything that might have threatened the astronauts’ lives.
It’s worth noting that the experts only analyzed the species they already knew existed. So, there is a chance, a very small one, that there might be something of alien nature in there. According to Jenna Lang, the author of the research, their findings were not surprising at all. It’s like here on Earth. A certain crew has certain microbes. When the astronauts will change, the microbes will change too.
Image source: nasa.gov