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Sea Plankton Found in Space? NASA Has Doubts

Aug 21, 2014 02:14 PM EDT
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In some bizarre twist of fate, plankton from Earth's sea has reportedly wound up on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). Experts know that certain bacteria can survive in space given the right conditions, but plankton is certainly not one of them. This of course raises the question, "how the heck did they get there?"

To be fair, it is not Russian cosmonauts themselves who are reporting the plankton, but rather Vladimir Solovyev, cheif of the Russian ISS orbital mission.

"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," he said in a statement, as reported by the Russian ITAR-TASS News Agency.

Cosmonauts reportedly found the plankton when analyzing samples from the station's outside illuminators (windows), which have become fogged and dirtied from engine fire as cargo is shipped to and from the station.

Solovyev admits that the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) has no conclusive idea as to how the plankton got there. The plankton was reportedly in a stage that showed it could not have possibly hitched a ride from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, from where crew and cargo deliveries to the ISS are launched.

Still, there are some theories. "It turns out that there are some rising air currents, which settle on the surface of the station," Solovyev added in a statement, according to RT network of TV-Novosti.

NASA, however, thinks the idea that plankton could ride updrafts from the Earth to the ISS is utterly ridiculous. The space agency adds that they have not been officially informed by Russia's ISS team of the discovery.

"As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they've found sea plankton," NASA spokesman Dan Huot told Space.com. "What they're actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That's what they were taking samples for. I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from."

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