Does Microbes present in Outer World?

Does life present on outer space? Our thinking is under obvious notions that some alien would be present in other planet. Does so? It is under wide study to understand the climatic conditions in different planets and their probability of containing any microbe or life in space. Controversies always running in the mind of researchers in NASA and also around the globe. Let me see how much I can consider and clarify it before you.

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The microscopic creatures are always a daily part of life and you may consider as daily companion in day to day activities. Some microbes we term as beneficial and some we regard them as harmful. With the potent understanding of microbes in the future space exploration missions where researchers are funded by NASA’s Human Research Program plan to gather and analyze biological samples to study better the space station’s Microbiome – the ever-changing microbe environment that can be found on the space station and its inhabitants.

Among station’s microbes which were identified are pathogens. Like humans naturally carry Staphylococcus aureus (more commonly known as “staph”), so it’s not surprising that this bacterium has been found on surfaces and in the air on the station where crew members live and work. Crew members could serve as hosts, bringing pathogenic viruses aboard the station with them.

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Researcher checking for the microbes if present on the space instruments.

NASA’s rover scientific instruments are enough to detect microbial life in space, but still scientists say that the true fact is still hidden deep inside with lots to understand about the life which may sustain in outer world. NASA Astrobiology Institute awarded a grant in January 2013 to Jan Amend, of the University of Southern California, and his collaborators to work on this deep secret. Amend specializes in microbiology, and in April 2013 he gave a talk outlining the ambitious objectives that he and his team hope to achieve over the next five years.

Life in space is totally controversial. “Microbes inhabit the farthest reaches of the biosphere, floating up to six miles into the atmosphere. Microbes may inhabit space beyond our world. If life exists on other planets, it is most probably microbial life. If we humans are to ever colonize another planet or moon or go for long space flights, we must build life support systems using the help of microbes.” I found this tag line while studying the space microbe fact in Space Adventure. Since research is still under scientist’s final conclusion hence we can conclude anything arbitrarily.

A recent study in Discovery News highlight about a cyanobacterium survived attached to the space station’s exterior for 553 days. Overcoming the hurdles of lack of air, sizzling radiation and extreme temperatures, just to name a few the cyanobacteria was on a ride of the International Space Station of almost a year and a half in vacuum. “We weren’t sure they could survive that long, but we thought potentially they could,” Olssen-Francis told Discovery News. Geomicrobiologists Karen Olssen-Francis and Charles Cockell from the Open University at Milton Keynes, England, working in an experiment to identify useful microbes for future space colonies. You can read further about the exploration here.

The spacecraft that are sent on their long journey into space should be as clean as possible and considerably reduced in microbial burden, since the risk of biological contamination of other planets is high. Such a contamination could affect the detection of extraterrestrial life or make it even impossible. For this reason, spacecraft are assembled in so-called “clean rooms” under the most stringent controls for bio-contamination. The core of this special collection consists of about 300 bacterial strains that were isolated from various clean rooms. All bacteria belong to Risk group 1 or 2. A large portion of the isolates can be assigned to the Gram-positive bacteria, whereby spore-forming bacteria from the species Bacillus as well as Micrococcus- and Staphylococcus-species are represented. Gram-negative bacteria are predominantly represented by the species Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and Stenotrophomonas. Recently, an additional set of 60 isolates affiliated to these genera were added to the Europian Space Agency (ESA) collection. The isolates derived from samples taken in 2003 and 2004 within an ESA founded project.

In final conclusion, you can say it is quite confusing and yet it is lot to understand about space microbes. I have just highlighted some of the recent notifications on space microbes. I would be glad to know what you think about the presence of microbes in space. Please check the poll to vote your views after reading this article. Your possible comments are appreciable.

References:       

  • Microbial creatures in space. 21st June, 2013. www.nasa.gov
  • Alien Life Hunt Looks to Earth’s Underground Microbes. Amanda Doyle, Astrobiology Magazine. July 31, 2013. www.space.com
  • Space Adventure. www.commtechlab.msu.edu
  • Microbial Star Trekkers Survive 553 Days in Space. Feb 11, 2013. news.discovery.com
  • Microbes – possible hitchhikers to space? www.dsmz.de
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About Saumyadip

Science Communicator and Biologist. Keep interests in host-pathogen interaction research. Specifically bacterial infection mechanism, host infection evasion and immune susceptibility of host. PhD student at Academia Sinica Molecular and Cell Biology, Taiwan
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