Three lifeforms 'unknown to science' discovered INSIDE the ISS by astronauts

THREE entirely new lifeforms have been discovered at different locations onboard the International Space Station.

A team of US and Indian scientists studied four strains of bacteria found on the orbiting lab, and say that three were previously unknown to science.

Their discovery could help future astronauts grow food on missions into deep space, researchers wrote in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Three of the strains were collected by astronauts in 2015 and 2016.

One was in an overhead panel in a research lab, the second in the station’s Cupola viewing deck, and the third on the crew’s dining table.

The fourth strain was captured from an old cabin air filter that was returned to Earth ten years ago.

Working with Nasa, researchers from the University of Southern California identified that the bacteria belonged to the family Methylobacteriaceae.

They've opted to name the new species Methylobacterium ajmalii in honour of renowned Indian biodiversity scientist Dr Ajmal Khan.

The tiny organisms all belong to a "good" family of bacteria found in soil and freshwater here on Earth.

They're are involved in nitrogen fixation processes, plant growth, and in fighting plant pathogens.

It means they were almost certainly carried up to the station from Earth aboard one of the dozens of spacecraft that travel there every year.

It's thought that the strains could lend a hand in developing crops that can grow in space.

Nasa's Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran and Dr Nitin Kumar Singh said that the bacteria may possess DNA that's useful for extra-terrestrial farming.

By isolating these genes and investigating them, scientists could narrow down their search for plants that can survive for long periods on spacecraft.

What is the ISS?

Here’s what you need to know about the International Space Station…

  • The International Space Station, often abbreviated to ISS, is a large space craft that orbits Earth and houses astronauts who go up there to complete scientific missions
  • Many countries worked together to build it and they work together to use it
  • It is made up of many pieces, which astronauts had to send up individually on rockets and put together from 1998 to 2000
  • Ever since the year 2000, people have lived on the ISS
  • Nasa uses the station to learn about living and working in space
  • It is approximately 250 miles above Earth and orbits around the planet just like a satellite
  • Living inside the ISS is said to be like living inside a big house with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gym, lots of science labs and a big bay window for viewing Earth

Dr Venkateswaran and Dr Singh cautioned, however, that more research must be done to prove that the organisms could lead to a breakthrough.

"To grow plants in extreme places where resources are minimal, isolation of novel microbes that help to promote plant growth under stressful conditions is essential," they said.

"Since our group possess expertise in cultivating microorganisms from extreme niches, we have been tasked by the NASA Space Biology Program to survey the ISS for the presence and persistence of the microorganisms.

"Needless to say, the ISS is a cleanly-maintained extreme environment. Crew safety is the number one priority and hence understanding human/plant pathogens are important, but beneficial microbes like this novel Methylobacterium ajmalii are also needed."

In other news, a Nasa-funded study revealed this week that water that once flowed over the surface of Mars is now trapped within its crust.

Nasa has announced that it is accepting applications for wannabe space explorers who wish to fire their names to the Red Planet.

And, the Perseverance Mars rover revealed stunning video and audio recordings from the surface of the Red Planet last month.

What do you make of the ISS find? Let us know in the comments!

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