Monday, July 15, 2024

Astronauts Collecting Microbes Clinging to International Space Station : Here’s the Reason | Science & Technology News

NASA Astronauts Spacewalking to Collect Living Organisms from International Space Station

NASA astronauts Tracy Dyson and Matt Dominick are gearing up for a spacewalk to collect living organisms from the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS). These organisms, which have been thriving on the space station since its launch in 1998, could provide valuable insights into the possibility of life in our solar system.

The astronauts had initially attempted this mission on 13 May but had to abort it due to suit discomfort. Now, with astronaut Mike Barratt joining Tracy Dyson, they will spend six and a half hours swabbing surfaces on the ISS to determine if microorganisms can survive in the harsh conditions of space.

Dr. Carly Howett, a NASA researcher at the University of Oxford, explains that these microorganisms could have hitched a ride on the space shuttles that launched the ISS into orbit or could have been released into space during past spacewalks.

Studying these organisms is crucial for understanding the potential for life in space and for ensuring that we do not contaminate other planets with Earth-based life forms. As we explore the outer solar system, the presence of these extremophiles on the ISS indicates that life can adapt and survive in extreme environments.

The accessibility of the ISS makes it an excellent location to study these space microbes, offering valuable insights into their ability to endure the cold darkness of space and thermal cycling between sunlight and shadow.

Organisms that can survive in extreme environments like space or the deep ocean, known as extremophiles, provide valuable lessons on resilience and adaptation. Dr. Howett emphasizes that these microorganisms can survive by becoming dormant in extreme conditions and reactivating when conditions become favorable.

The upcoming study by NASA aims to investigate the release and spread of microorganisms from the ISS, shedding light on their resilience and potential impact on space exploration. This mission further underscores the importance of understanding the capabilities of these space organisms and their implications for future space exploration.

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