Seventy-six types of unregulated micro-organisms have been detected on the International
Space Station (ISS). Though many are harmless, some are already capable of causing severe damage. And no one knows how they will mutate in space.
“We had these problems on the old MIR space station, now we have them on the ISS. The microflora is attacking the station. These organisms corrode metals and polymers and can cause equipment to fail,” Anatoly Grigoryev, the vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Interfax news agency.
Despite extensive precautions, most of the microbes are accidentally brought to the space station with various cargoes.
One of the early Russian crews also carelessly released a fungus that was later allowed to spread.
Of particular concern is the Zarya – the first ISS module launched into space in 1998.
But the crew is also in potential peril.
“Uncontrolled multiplication of bacteria can cause infectious diseases among the crew,” said Grigoryev.