The menagerie of bacterial and fungal species living among us is ever growing – and this is no exception in low-gravity environments, such as the International Space Station (ISS).
Researchers from the United States and India working with NASA have now discovered four strains of bacteria living in different places in the ISS – three of which were, until now, completely unknown to science.
Three of the four strains were isolated back in 2015 and 2016 – one was found on an overhead panel of the ISS research stations, the second was found in the Cupola, the third was found on the surface of the dining table; the fourth was found in an old HEPA filter returned to Earth in 2011.
All four of the strains belong to a family of bacteria found in soil and freshwater; they are involved in nitrogen fixation, plant growth, and can help stop plant pathogens. Basically, good bacteria to have around if you’re growing things.
You might wonder what such soil bacteria were doing all the way up on the ISS, but the astronauts living on the space station have been growing small amounts of food for years, so it’s unsurprising that we’ve found plant-related microbes aboard.