APRIL 8, 2019
It could be the plot of a sci-fi movie, but the international space station is being attacked by metal eating bugs in space…
Okay, that sounds a little far-fetched, but the bugs are real and they’re the same kind you’d find in toilets, gyms and offices here on Earth.
Research has revealed the bug infestation on the ISS is actually bacteria and fungus. Not only could the bacteria make astronauts ill, but they may also be dangerous for the space station’s ‘structural stability’.
Nasa says some of the bugs are known to slowly dissolve metal down on Earth, meaning they could, in theory, eat through the space station, which is bad news when you’re in space.
But that would take a REALLY long time!
The space station was built in 1998 and orbits the Earth at around 250 miles high. In 20 years the station has been visited by more than 222 astronauts and it seems like all those visits could be partly responsible for making the craft so mucky.
Not only could the bacteria have been brought on board by astronauts, but it’s possible the bugs were lying dormant on the craft ever since its components were first built back on earth.
It’s not yet known if the bugs are bad for the health of astronauts staying on board the ISS, but analysis shows the microscopic bacteria copes well in extreme environments.
Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a senior research scientist at Nasa says researching the bugs is important because astronauts have an ‘altered immunity’ in space, that means it’s hard to know if they might be more likely to get sick.
Knowing how men and women cope with bugs in space is important because Nasa eventually wants people to live on other planets and visit Mars, and both of those missions would mean spending lots of time in space.