Sea Plankton Found Living on Outside of Space Station, Russians Say

By Carl Engelking | August 21, 2014 1:36 pm

Credit: NASA

The human crew aboard the International Space Station may not be the only group of living creatures hurtling through space: microscopic sea plankton could also be hitching a ride.

Vladimir Solovyev, the official overseeing Russia’s ISS segment, reported on Tuesday that traces of terrestrial sea plankton were on the spacecraft’s exterior, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency.

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further,” Solovyev told ITAR-TASS.

Rare Residue

The plankton were reportedly discovered while cosmonauts were conducting a study designed to identify residues that could accumulate on the ISS as it travels through space. However, NASA officials aren’t confirming the Russian plankton claim.

“I’m not sure where all the sea-plankton talk is coming from,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot told

Space Contamination

Although the reports of plankton haven’t been confirmed, past incidents have shown that microscopic organisms can indeed survive being rocketed into space. Several years ago, scientists launched a group of tardigrades — the planet’s scrappiest animals — into space. They survived cosmic radiation, freezing temperatures, dehydration and the vacuum of space. In May NASA scientists also reported that the Curiosity rover likely carried dozens of species of bacteria that could have survived a trip to Mars, possibly contaminating the planet.

The source of those critters was straightfoward: Bacteria live nearly everywhere on Earth. But as for plankton, that’s less clear. Even Solovyev said he couldn’t explain how the organisms got into space.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration
  • Uncle Al

    Thunderstorms have updrafts. Ditto being entrained within volcanic eruptions’ rising plumes. SR-71 windshields got splattered by insects.

    • RealityAlwaysBites

      Waterspouts are common, like a big vacuum cleaner.

  • Facebook User

    That’s very interesting indeed and the Russian cosmonauts may have just discovered the secret of how life could spread in the universe. It’s not too hard to imagine plankton being lifted into space by natural means or even hitching a ride on a passing rocket as it climbs out through the atmosphere on its way to the International Space Station.

    If bacteria, plankton or other organisms attached themselves to a passing meteoroid who knows where they might end up.

  • JSintheStates

    Contaminating a star system near you!

    • delireweb

      If there’s no life where this happens, well you’re contaminating nothing. Actually you’re seeding life itself, quite the opposite. 😉

  • delireweb

    There’s plankton floating in the air also (Aeroplankton). And why wouldn’t they be able to survive? The pressure at their size is not under the same scale, especially when nearing a huge body like a space station suking-up much of void’s “efforts”, they don’t all need to “breathe-in” for exterior oxygen so as to survive in a somewhat “dormant” state (that needs to be found, if it is I don’t know about it yet)… IMHO It could be plausible.

  • Travis Refuge

    Funny NASA needs millions of dollars to rocket blast objects into space, but you guys believe the wind can simply blow sea plankton over 62 miles into space.

    Use you brains and think outside the box.


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