Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov claims that the bacteria he swabbed from the exterior of the International Space Station did not come from Earth.
Shkaplerov told Russian news agency Tass that the bacteria collected from the external shell of the ISS “…have come from outer space and settled along the external surface. They are being studied so far and it seems that they pose no danger.”
It is unclear if and how the origins of the bacteria will be proven, and NASA is silent on the cosmonaut’s claims thus far. We are already aware of terrestrial bacteria making its way aboard the ISS, both inside and out. Creatures like the tardigrade — or “water bear” — prove that there are creatures on Earth capable of tolerating life outside of our atmosphere. In fact, recent studies suggest that independent microbial excursions from Earth into space are not only possible, but relatively common.
For now, we will wait for more concrete answers as to the former home of Shkaplerov’s newfound microscopic friends, and the search for extraterrestrial life continues.
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