While the idea of finding unidentified organisms on a space station might sound like the plot of a science-fiction horror movie – these particular specimens are thankfully nothing to worry about.
They were first identified by researchers from the United States and India in samples collected from various locations throughout the International Space Station over the last few years.
Four strains were found in total – all of them belonging to a family of bacteria found in soil and water.
Three however – which were found in the station’s overhead panels, dining room and cupola module – had never been seen before and were entirely new to science.
The fourth, known as Methylorubrum rhodesianum, was found in one of the station’s HEPA filters.
While the presence of these bacteria aboard the orbiting outpost might seem surprising, it’s worth remembering that the astronauts have been carrying out plant growth experiments for years.
“The whole genome sequence assembly of these three ISS strains reported here will enable the comparative genomic characterization of ISS isolates with Earth counterparts in future studies,” the study authors wrote.
“This will further aid in the identification of genetic determinants that might potentially be responsible for promoting plant growth under microgravity conditions and contribute to the development of self-sustainable plant crops for long-term space missions in future.”