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Plankton found on ISS but it is not extraterrestrial

The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-132 crew member on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-132 crew member on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
NASA Public domain as a work of NASA.

The Russian International Space Station (ISS) orbital mission chief Vladimir Solovyev reported the discovery of plankton and other microorganisms on the illuminators of the ISS in the Aug. 18, 2014, edition of ITAR-TASS. The discovery is stunning to say the least. A more detailed examination of the specimens found is planned as well as an examination of the extent of the microbial contamination inside and outside of the ISS.

Many news agencies from the United States to the Arab Emirates are reporting the discovery of extraterrestrial life on the ISS. This concept is so outrageous that it belies serious consideration. There has never been evidence of plankton or microbial life detected in or around the ISS that has an origin on another world. A good headline is worth stretching the facts to their elastic limit in this instance.

The microbes and plankton on the exterior of the ISS have an Earth origin. While every country involved in the construction and delivery of the various modules that comprise the ISS has taken the utmost care to maintain strict cleanliness standards, one can be reasonably confident that the microorganisms and plankton came from Earth. The fact that the little critters were almost immediately recognized as plankton is a dead give away for Earth origin.

Four of the major facilities that launched missions to the ISS are in coastal locations in Florida, California, and Holland. A fifth launch site in Russia is near the Ural Sea and two supply centers are near the Black Sea. A reasonable assumption is that the plankton that was found came from one of these locations. The plankton could have been delivered by the multitude of Space Shuttle voyages to the ISS.

The fact that both plankton and microorganisms can live in an atmosphere without oxygen is not really that odd. Many species use metals to produce oxygen on Earth. There is ample light from the Sun to provide photosynthesis. The species discovered could have been on the ISS for as long as 16 years. This is ample time for a species to evolve into a near-space life form that uses metal and light to sustain life. A simpler answer is that air currents lifted the plankton to the ISS from the ocean.