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NASA Scientist Names Bacteria After Former Indian President and Scientist Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

May 22, 2017 10:46 AM EDT
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NASA scientists pay tribute to former Indian president and scientists Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam by naming a bacteria after him. He is a world-renowned scientist and missiles expert. The premier space agency pays tribute by immortalizing his name.

It was the researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who discovered the new bacteria from the filters on the International Space Station (ISS). They named it Solibacillus kalamii in honor of the scientist and late Indian president.

"The name of the bacterium is Solibacillus kalamii, the species name is after Dr. Abdul Kalam and genus name is Solibacillus which is a spore forming bacteria," Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, senior research scientist, Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at JPL said in a statement.

The bug was apparently caught from the space station by a filter that was onboard the ISS for 40 months. The filter is called high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) and it caught a new type of bacteria potentially found in space.

JPL scientists analyzed the filter, the result was then published in the Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. It is still surprising to find fungi and bacteria in the space station that orbits the Earth from 400 kilometers above. This only proves that they do exist there. But experts are firm that although the newly discovered bacteria called Solibacillus kalamii, named after Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was found in space, it doesn't mean that it is an extra-terrestrial life form.

"I am reasonably sure it has hitch-hiked to the space station on board some cargo and then survived the hostile conditions of space," Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran explained.

Keeping spacecraft and payload clean is part of the mission for scientists. They make sure that no bugs hitchhike to space because of the risks of contaminating the area. That's why having bacteria and fungi aboard the space station are a big deal for scientists.

According to a report, by international law, high hygiene levels are required so as not to contaminate other planets in the future.

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