Home / Science / The International Space Station is full of germs, but that's a good thing: SCIENCE: Tech Times

The International Space Station is full of germs, but that's a good thing: SCIENCE: Tech Times



ISS astronauts show how to build a pizza in zero gravity


The international space station is full of germs, but it is possibly a good sign of a healthy spacecraft. Even so, it is important to identify these microbes, especially now that humanity has a renewed interest in exploring more space.
( NASA | Getty Images )

More than 1

2,500 species of microbes have inhabited the Internal Space Station.

That may sound terrible at first since it's germs in space, after all, not to mention that the ISS astronauts are making pizza there. However, in fact it is a sign of a healthy environment.

ISS is full of germs

According to the study, there are 12,554 microbial species at least on board the ISS, and only from the surfaces within the satellite, at least 1,000 and possibly more than 4,000 species reside.

The front lab microphone, the robotic lab workstation joystick, the aft lab vent and the starboard sleeping quarter nomex – these are some of the 15 sites from which the astronauts acquired the samples .

Interestingly, most of these areas are analogous to elements on Earth, such as the front lab microphone that is comparable to a cell phone, the starboard sleeping room as a pillow, and so on.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is far from it too.

"Diversity is generally associated with a healthy ecosystem," said David Coil, a project scientist at the University of California at Davis and co-author of the paper, adding that the discovery is "safe" and that it is potentially an indication of a healthy spaceship.

The importance of identifying these microbes

Researchers say that it is "critically important to understand the microbial ecology of built environments" for space travel, especially at a time when humans are aiming to explore the system solar even more.

As such, UC Davis in collaboration with other groups such as Science Cheerleader, which is comprised of professional cheerleaders who are also scientists, began the MERCCURI Project. The objective was simple: collect samples of sports stadiums and send them to the ISS to verify if the microbes would prosper or not.

Now UC Davis scientists asked the ISS astronauts to send samples from the space station in return.

Coil said that the most common questions the team receives can be summarized in two: "Is it disgusting?" and "Will you see microbes from space?"

"As for the first, we are completely surrounded by almost harmless microbes on Earth, and we see a broadly similar microbial community in the ISS, so it is probably not more or less gross than its living room," he said. Coil (PDF). "Since the ISS is completely closed, the microbes inside the station come from the people in the ISS and the supplies that are sent to them," he continued, answering the second question.

This study was published in the journal PeerJ .

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