Life in space? Russian cosmonauts think they've found it

Aug 22, 2014

Russia's space agency says it has discovered sea plankton in space – but Nasa isn't convinced

Russian cosmonauts say they have discovered sea plankton living on the outside of the International Space Station, according to the country's state media.

The microscopic organisms were found on the windows of the space station and were described as "absolutely unique" by Vladimir Solovyev, chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission.

However, Nasa has not seen any evidence of Russia's findings. "I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from," Nasa's Dan Hout told

If present, it is unclear how the plankton got into orbit. It could have hitched a lift when components were transported into space, but scientists believe that is unlikely. A more plausible suggestion is that it was carried from the surface of the ocean on a massive air current.

The report from Russia's Space agency, Roscosmos, suggests that the new find could add to previous evidence that space could support some forms of life despite the lack of oxygen, sub-zero temperatures and cosmic radiation.

Previous research has shown that some microorganisms are able to survive deep in outer space. A microscopic invertebrate called a tardigrade can dehydrate itself and hibernate in order to stay alive.

If the discovery is true, it could have "interesting new implications for how we view life's compatibility with the rugged environment that is space", writes Erick Mack in Forbes.

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