A Russian official claims that samples collected by cosmonauts show evidence of sea plankton on the outside of the International Space Station, news agencies are reporting.
Cosmonauts on the orbiting outpost have allegedly discovered trace amounts of sea plankton and other microscopic organisms living on the outside of the station, exposed to the vacuum of space, according to a news story quoting space station official Vladimir Solovyov.
However, NASA has not confirmed the reports. “As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they’ve found sea plankton,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot said. Roscosmos is Russia’s Federal Space Agency.
The unconfirmed claims — reported by ITAR-TASS — were reportedly the result of a long-term study done using specialized equipment by Russians on the station, according to the news agency.
Although the cosmonauts did sample the outside of the space station and a window on one of the modules this week, they were not necessarily looking for traces of microbes, according to NASA.
“I’m not sure where all the sea-plankton talk is coming from,” Huot told Space.com. “The Russians did take samples from one of the windows on the Russian segment, and what they’re actually looking for is residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts. That’s what they were taking samples for. I don’t know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from.”
It’s possible that the plankton, if confirmed, could be a contaminant launched into space with the space station module, said NASA scientist Lynn Rothschild.
Read More: Space.com