Since 1998, the International Space Station has served as an artificial habitable satellite of Earth that moves at high speed in its orbit. Its purposes, among others, are those of scientific studies on life in space and the resistance that living organisms may have there.
That is why since the ISS was launched it has been the scene of numerous experiments, including the cultivation of some plants. For this reason, scientists from India and the United States using NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory technology have been studying the behavior of bacteria and other organic materials found on the ISS.
They have recently published a new study in which they announce the discovery of 4 strains of bacteria that have been growing in recent years in the plant growth chamber, on the dining room tables, and that have spread to all the equipment of the ship including some of which has already returned to Earth.
Of the 4 types of bacteria, one is known as Methylorubrum rhodesianum, which is normally found in soil and fresh water, but the other 3 were completely unknown until now and have been named Methylobacterium ajmalii.
At first, scientists were alarmed by the discovery of these 3 new species, previously unknown, growing in an inhospitable and delicate environment such as the International Space Station, but then after an arduous investigation, they determined that they not only did not represent any type of threat for humans but instead they could even be beneficial for growing food in space. In fact, they are being considered for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
The bacteria were isolated in 2015 and 2016 and after several years of studies, their nature could finally be determined:
“To grow plants in extreme locations where resources are minimal, isolating new microbes that help promote plant growth under stressful conditions is essential,” said NASA JPL team members Kasthuri Venkateswaran and Nitin Kumar Singh.
The development of bacteria and other microorganisms in space is crucial to investigating the future possibility that humans can colonize other planets. When we do, we’ll probably have company.