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Malicious new bacteria from the ISS could build a future on Mars

Malicious new bacteria from the ISS could build a future on Mars

In mid-March, NASA the investigators announced that they had found it unknown form of life Hidden on board at the International Space Station. And they were fresh with that.

In fact, for an organization known for its sophisticated communication strategy for the public — Mars pilots don’t write their tweets, that’s what I’m saying — they were all pretty calm with this discovery.

Take it also calm.

It is true that the new life was not, say, a xenomorphic stranger with blood acid. It was a new bacterial species, unknown on Earth, but its genes were identified as coming from a well-known terrestrial genus. Methylobacterium. Usually, its members like to be among the roots of plants, not on the walls of space stations. Still, you would think that an evolved microbe in space doesn’t have it but maybe it might deserve to have evolved. We are still here. No one was exactly surprised — and the reasons for defining the future of human space exploration.

As part of a research project on the life of microbes on the ISS, the ship’s astronauts dropped several parts of the station in 2015 and 2016 and sent home the used wipes. On Earth, for the next two years, a team of researchers headquartered in the Propulsion Laboratory’s Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group isolated microbes and sequenced their genes. One species found in the HEPA filter in the station’s life system was the garden variety (literally!) Methylobacterium rhodesianum. But the three samples were something new from a surface near the research frame, the wall near the “dome” of the windows, and the astronauts’ dining table. The researchers who lead the project named it M. ajmalii.

It was not even the first time these researchers had discovered a new bacterium in space. They had already found it another unknown bacterium In this set of ISS samples – an article about it was published in 2017. There is a possibility that these errors may have been foreign in some way, having evolved at the station. But he is thin. One probability is that they were riding on cargo or astronauts, and they only noticed that the microbial hunters went in search of them. “There are definitely opportunities for evolution in space, but the space station is very young. He is only 20 years old. Maybe the bacteria didn’t evolve during that time, ”says Kasthuri Venkateswaran, the JPL microbiologist who leads the project.

It is perhaps more interesting to know what bacteria are on Earth on Earth, but the heroes of a unique environment close the loop of a spaceship. Therefore, the study of the International Space Station microbiome — the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that grow on the spacecraft — can be key to achieving the security of missions to Mars or the sustainable foundations of other worlds. As on Earth, the health of human space will depend in part on a healthy microbiome and a good relationship with the microbiome of the vessel or shelter. “We are able to say that the new species carried by the crew may have some characteristics to meet the conditions there,” says Venkateswaran. “The rest might die. These are the things that keep alive. ”

The space really is quite unpleasant. On the outside of the boat or empty suit, the race would be to see you die first from drowning or freeze-drying. (High levels of harsh radiation are a disruption to long-term agreements.)

So the inside of these containers and suits should be closed systems. The only things that come and go are cargo and astronauts. Even when people go where they go, they carry it with their germs – in their gut, skin, nose and mouth. That’s true in your home, and it’s true in the ISS. The ISS is not like your home, and not just because it recycles air and water and you can’t open the windows. The air in the ISS is drier, with higher levels of carbon dioxide. The radiation level is higher. There is no talk of gravity. (“We are accustomed to certain types of microbes that remain on Earth, but they do not remain on Earth if there is no soil,” says John Rummel, former head of NASA’s Planetary Protection, which is responsible for keeping aliens off Earth) and life on Earth outside. There’s not so much a fresh smell inside the ISS, and since it’s full of nooks and crannies that water droplets can float and then retain, surface tension has a lot of space. there may be microbes.

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