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ISS Space

Scientists Find Traces of Sea Plankton On ISS Surface 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-stations-like-to-swim dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the ITAR-TASS News Agency: An experiment of taking samples from illuminators and the ISS surface has brought unique results, as scientists had found traces of sea plankton there, the chief of an orbital mission on Russia's ISS segment told reporters. Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop. He noted that it was not quite clear how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station.
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Scientists Find Traces of Sea Plankton On ISS Surface

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  • Or did they just find something that kind of looks like some?

    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:15PM (#47707403)
      Of course it is really plankton. The real issue is is it Sea Plankton as claimed. Or are our oceans full of Space Plankton?
      • Miniature giant space plankton, as it happens.
      • by Tuidjy (321055) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:03PM (#47708151)

        Let see.

        Did viable Space Plankton drift from outer space to the ISS as it was orbiting Earth, and just happened to be DNA-identical to the one that has been living (and maybe evolving) in Earth's seas?

        Or was Sea Plankton carried by the wind to the hold of the vehicle carrying these components up from cape Canaveral?

        Oh, my... so hard to decide which is more likely.

        • by ShaunC (203807)

          Next week on Search for Ancient Plankton, renowned expert S. Squarepantopoulous explores the difference between space plankton and sea plankton. Only on H2, check local listings.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Because, Aliens.

            • by Dogtanian (588974)

              Because, Aliens.

              Obligatory. [memecrunch.com]

              While we're here, what's up with that Ancient Aliens guy's hair? Is he a massive Babylon 5 fan or something?!

        • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @09:31PM (#47709071)

          Well, the cargo ship is one possibility, but when you consider the scale of the oceans and just how close the ISS is to them: if the Pacific Ocean were a sheet of Letter sized paper, the ISS would be zipping along 1/4" above it, and the ISS has been skimming along near the Earth's surface like this for years and years.

          Now, think about hurricanes, typhoons, winter storms, and everything else that violently churns the ocean surface - aerosolizing some tiny fraction of it, but still including billions upon billions of plankton that go for a flight every year. Most fall back into the ocean, but some inevitably fly quite high....

          What would be amazing to me is if these sea-launched plankton could actually hitch a ride on the passing ISS without getting lethally damaged in the transition. I suppose that on their scale, hitting a wall moving hundreds of miles per hour might not be as disruptive as it is for larger, multicellular organisms.

          • by u38cg (607297)
            Well, when you hit a wall at several hundred miles an hour the damage is mechanical. At plankton scale it's effectively just chemistry.
          • Maybe there was a layer of dead plankton that built up over time, and
            provided some 'cushion' so later arrivals had a softer landing on the
            surface of the ISS?

      • And where there's Space Plankton, the must be Space Whales. Man the harpoons maties!.

    • Perhaps it was "The Green Slime" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00... [imdb.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    what makes you so sure it is of terrestrial origins?

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @06:06PM (#47707783) Journal

      what makes you so sure it is of terrestrial origins?

      Unless this is Star Trek, where the entire biodiversity of the galaxy can be accounted for by face paint and is sexually interoperable with starfleet captains, we can make an overwhelmingly likely inference based on the chemistry. If its DNA and assorted important chemistry closely matches a terrestrial species it is very likely to be from around here.

      • I don't doubt it's from Earth, to me the intriguing question is how did it get from the ocean to the station - did it hitch a ride with a launch vehicle, or is this high altitude sea spray?

        If it is sea spray, it should be found on most long serving LEO satellites.

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          The space shuttle launch pads are about a kilometer away from the ocean. I was under the impression that satellies weren't exposed payloads until they near the end of the burn of the rocket.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In a world that takes weeks to even identify the correct Linnaean Kingdom of orange biomass that washes up along the shore or Inupiat village, don't look for a definitive answer any time soon.

      • by LienRag (1787684)
        Well, if Space Planction can came as close to earth as to cling on the ISS, it probably can fall on earth itself too...
        So where would you find DNA differences?
      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        Unless this is Star Trek, where the entire biodiversity of the galaxy can be accounted for by face paint and is sexually interoperable with starfleet captains

        You're making quite a big assumption there- we didn't actually *see* any of this. (*) It's far more likely that Kirk- being Kirk- is engaging in what we can euphemistically call "inter-species sex" (cough) and just doesn't give that much of a ****. (**) I'm sure that if there wasn't a... compatible hole, he'd find one that fits closely enough.

        That looks a lot worse now that it's been typed out. :-/

        (*) Though I'm sure that one or more geeks have attempted an unofficial porno version focusing on this anyw

  • Star Whales coming soon to a galaxy near you!!

    • Star Whales coming soon to a galaxy near you!!

      Woah!! Let's calm down here! We should start with engineering space jellyfish first and work up....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:02PM (#47707313)

    This doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

    Many forms of sea plankton are microscopically small. They can easily become trapped within evaporated water droplets. And the ISS isn't really in the dead of space; it's still within the ionosphere, which itself consists partially of water vapor.

    So it makes perfect sense that sea plankton would end up trapped within water that evaporated from the surface of the various bodies of water on earth, and then made its way up to the upper reaches of the ionosphere, where the ISS passed through it, causing the plankton to be deposited upon the ISS.

    It's all very reasonable.

    • by wkk2 (808881) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:14PM (#47707395)
      If plankton was taken to the ISS via an updraft and it's viable (survived the delta V of impact). It would seem likely that impacts with passing objects that are above escape velocity could also occur. If that's true, plankton might be found all over the solar system.
      • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:41PM (#47708437) Journal

        If that's true, plankton might be found all over the solar system.

        "My God! It's full of plankton!"

        They may be the "dark matter" we've been searching for.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        survived the delta V of impact

        Have you never heard of the cube-square law? The delta V of impact is nothing to worry about for microscopic things that don't have internal organs.

      • by BigMike (122378)

        And the universe says "thanks for all the fish"

        If plankton was taken to the ISS via an updraft and it's viable (survived the delta V of impact). It would seem likely that impacts with passing objects that are above escape velocity could also occur. If that's true, plankton might be found all over the solar system.

    • by Sowelu (713889)

      I would expect it's more likely that it picked the stuff up during launch. Water vapor in the air at low altitudes?

      • ...and survive the very high temperatures caused by air friction on the way up?

        • Shielded in the capsule holding components of the ISS? Why not? The ISS parts weren't traveling in a vacuum, and given humid, balmy, oceanfront Cape Canaveral, seems reasonable to me that their might have been some air exchange or air captured.
      • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:50PM (#47707687)

        Are you suggesting that a freak occurrence like a sea breeze may be occurring at a coastal location like Cape Canaveral, Florida? And that it may have even reached as far inland as the VAB [wikipedia.org], which is where the ISS capsule would have been loaded into the shuttle's cargo bay? And that the VAB, which has the largest doors anywhere in the world so that fully-loaded space vehicles can be carried out on the crawler transporter [wikipedia.org] in one piece, may have allowed such contaminated air to get inside?

        Absurdity and nonsense! Surely they would've planned for something like that!

        Which is all to say, I quite agree with you, since it seems like the most obvious time and place that sea life could have been deposited on any of the equipment. After all, they spend days or weeks inside the VAB, which is one of the largest buildings by volume in the world. So large, in fact, that rain clouds have formed inside, and that water has to come from somewhere...such as the nearby ocean water that contains plankton.

        • by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @08:40PM (#47708775)

          Actually nothing is loaded into the payload bay in the VAB. That is just where the stack was built up. The ISS payload were installed in the Payload Changeout Room (PCR) on the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) while the shuttle is actually on the Pad. This allows a later integration for the payloads and allows access to them late in the process.

          http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pa... [nasa.gov]

          • Wow. I had no idea. That is really cool.

            Now I'm wondering where I got it in my head that the orbiter was fully-loaded when it was placed on the crawler, since I could've sworn I had heard that. Well, regardless, it appears I either heard wrong or am misremembering. This is one of those times that I absolutely relish being corrected, since I get to learn something neat. Thanks!

            • by trout007 (975317)

              There were a few horizontally integrated payloads but those were integrated in the Orbiter Process Facility (OPF) which is basically the hangar.

        • by zb84 (3791859)
          ...Cape Canaveral? This is ROS segment module, Baikonur is far, far away from sea.
      • by rasmusbr (2186518)

        I would expect it's more likely that it picked the stuff up during launch. Water vapor in the air at low altitudes?

        Yeah, or perhaps more likely: water droplets carried by the wind inside the bay where they loaded the space station module into the shuttle.

      • Yeah, given that launch sites tend to be on coastal areas.

    • What also makes perfect sense is that the equipment used to do the collection and detection wasn't as clean as they had hoped. I seem to recall this happened with some meteorites at some point. Contamination is always a factor when dealing with microorganisms.

    • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:33PM (#47708377) Homepage Journal

      Except water vapor is the gaseous form of water; the plankton would have to be transported on individual molecules of water to reach the ionosphere.

      If plankton were transportable in microscopic *droplets* in the troposphere as you suggest, a more plausible explanation is that the equipment was contaminated -- both the station itself and the gear used to test it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:04PM (#47707327)
    Krabs must have caught him trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula again.
  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:16PM (#47707405)
    Plankton on the ISS happens the same way SpongeBob and Patrick can build a campfire in Bikini Bottom. (in fact, there is a cosmic connection between the two)
  • by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:16PM (#47707407)
    Terrestrial materials found on object made of terrestrial materials.
  • Presumably, someone has been using the infinite improbability drive.
  • Could someone not have tidied up this summary just a little?

  • by Zondar (32904) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:27PM (#47707505)

    licking the hull of the ISS for nutrition?

  • by AbrasiveCat (999190) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:39PM (#47707605)
    First plankton, and you know what eats plankton, barnacles. I wouldn't want to have to scrape down the ISS. No wonder they are talking about abandoning the ISS in a few years.
    • They just need to send someone out there to coat the ISS in some toxic chemicals, same as boats. So that the plankton can become resistant to toxic chemicals as well as extreme weather conditions.

  • Meanwhile. The samples of the Titanic I've been analyzing seem to have been exposed to hard vacuum and solar wind erosion.
  • And just like that...life, living outside special suits and man made mechanical devices has spread from our planet. If there wasn't life in outer space before, besides ours (which I think is highly unlikely anyhow since space is so vast), there is now! Well done mankind on the beginnings of teraforming!
  • by slew (2918) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:47PM (#47707659)

    AFAIK, the ISS is still inside the van allen belt which means it isn't even subject to medium-level of cosmic radiation (experienced by the Apollo missions), yet alone hard cosmic interstellar radiation (when you get out into Voyager distances)...

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      Yes and no-- Depends on what the ISS's orbit is. If it has a circumpolar orbit, (crosses the polar region), then it will pass through the magnetic field lines that funnel cosmic particles into the atmosphere that cause the northern lights. EG-- it would get beamed pretty intensely with concentrated cosmic particles.

      If it does not have that kind of orbit, and instead stays around the equator, then no so much. Mostly radiation free, compared to outside the magnetosphere.

      What we need to do, is send a lander t

      • by slew (2918) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:07PM (#47708171)

        Yes and no-- Depends on what the ISS's orbit is. If it has a circumpolar orbit, (crosses the polar region), then it will pass through the magnetic field lines that funnel cosmic particles into the atmosphere that cause the northern lights. EG-- it would get beamed pretty intensely with concentrated cosmic particles.

        If it does not have that kind of orbit, and instead stays around the equator, then no so much. Mostly radiation free, compared to outside the magnetosphere.

        ISS orbit track here [isstracker.com]... Quite equatorial...

        What we need to do, is send a lander to the moon loaded with some microbial and planktonic colonies, where it can get beamed by high intensity, raw solar wind radiation, (And more importantly, where we can keep close tabs on it easily) and measure how the colonies do over time.

        Accidentally did that [nasa.gov] back in '67 with Surveyor 3 [wikipedia.org]...

        The 50-100 organisms survived launch, space vacuum, 3 years of radiation exposure, deep-freeze at an average temperature of only 20 degrees above absolute zero, and no nutrient, water or energy source. (The United States landed 5 Surveyors on the Moon; Surveyor 3 was the only one of the Surveyors visited by any of the six Apollo landings. No other life forms were found in soil samples retrieved by the Apollo missions or by two Soviet unmanned sampling missions, although amino acids - not necessarily of biological origin - were found in soil retrieved by the Apollo astronauts.)

        • Plenty of biological material was left on the surface in jettison bags during the apollo missions. Its going to be interesting when those bags get retrieved. In fact I wonder if it justifies a sample return mission right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    we're planning to go to mars in a few years, right? so let's go ahead and send a probe full of micro-organisms to mars. when we get there in a few years, check the landing site to see how they are doing. if we end up not going there (in person), red rover, red rover, send curiosity right over.

  • for a second location for the Chum Bucket.

  • Plinktun on the ISS? It's beached as bro.

  • Does this make proving "there is no whale on this spaceship" harder, or doesn't it?

  • I suspect the Japanese, and specifically the Japanese resupply modules (and that is not a joke). They are launched near the coast from a culture that makes extensive use of sea-weed; either way there could be contamination with sea plankton.

    The idea that plankton could drift by itself up to orbital regions is... interesting. The idea that it could survive a 7 km/sec impact with Station is not; I don't think that is viable on either sense of the term.

  • he knows what to do with stuff that hitchhikes on spacecraft.
  • I guess this isn't exactly The Andromeda Strain (1969), by Michael Crichton, but it was my first thought.

  • I, for one, welcome our new planktonic overlords.

  • Where could that come from? I would understand it if the rockets or shuttles docking up there would start near the ocean, let's say Florida, but hey, I'm no marine biologist, that's a job for George Costanza.

  • Don't trust the Russians. They're after our bodily fluids, this is just the first step. Alien plankton on ISS found... plankton also in sea... sea water evaporates... all water is contaminated. There's a reason they only drink vodka.

    -- dammit, I can't think of an actual quote from the movie.

  • Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop.

    *looks out window* I think I can see something on the solar panel ...

  • "There are those who believe that life here, began out there...." -- Battlestar Galactica

  • SO THAT's the way life got seeded on Earth! Mis-directed panspermia!

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