Cosmonauts have apparently discovered plankton and other microorganisms on the outside of the International Space Station's windows, according to an announcement from a Russian official. NASA has not yet confirmed or denied the findings.
"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 told Space.com. Roscosmos is Russia's Federal Space Agency.
The Russian cosmonauts allegedly found the plankton during a routine window cleaning. The plankton were not visible to the naked eye––a machine detected the particles when it analyzed the contents of the window wipes.
It's not clear whether the plankton were living or dead, but there is evidence that microorganisms can survive the freezing conditions and harsh radiation of space.
Scientists also don't know how the microorganisms could have strayed so far from home, but theories abound. It's possible that the plankton rode up with the parts of the ISS as it was being assembled in the late 1990s; that they were carried up during a resupply mission; or, maybe they were living inside the ISS and escaped during a spacewalk. The Russians are positing that the microbes floated up on air currents … which is actually not entirely crazy, since scientists know that bacteria live in Earth's upper atmosphere.
Or maybe the plankton are actually ALIENS sent to destroy humans. Just kidding. But if the findings are confirmed, they could have major implications in the search for life on other worlds.
We’ll keep you posted as more details come to light.