The International Space Station is surprisingly filthy

The International Space Station is surprisingly filthy

Trillions of bacteria are living with astronauts on the ISS.

Rather alarming new research suggests that trillions of bacteria are living on the International Space Station with astronauts.

This will come as no surprise to astronauts who have been aboard the ISS, with Scott Kelly describing the aroma of the space station as a mixture of antiseptic and garbage, but you may be surprised at just how much bacteria is up there, according to a Washington Post report.

Of course, this isn’t terribly surprising, as humans living in a sealed space station for months at a time in a cramped space 220 miles above the Earth are likely to spread some germs around — and it’s not so easy to get rid of it once you’ve brought it with you.

But just how filthy is the ISS? Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wanted to know, so astrobiologist Kasthuri Venkateswaran and other researchers examined a HEPA filter that had spent 40 months of the ISS, as well as two bags of dust that had been pulled from a vacuum cleaner on the space station.

They found quite a cocktail of bacteria and human debris. In particular, actinobacteria — a type of skin bacteria — was found in great abundance. They also found Staphylococcus, a living creature that can cause food poisoning and skin infections.

And it revealed one surprising fact: the daily sweep astronauts do with the vacuum cleaner did more to remove contaminants than the filters on the ISS. The vacuum dust that came from the ISS had 75 times the microbial population of the filters.

The researchers also found pathogens on the ISS like Propionibacterium, which scientists aren’t sure whether or not it is harmful to humans.



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