Germaphobes of Earth, some bad news: Space stations are nowhere near as sterile as you imagined them to be.
That’s right, those impeccably white corridors and laboratories from 2001 A Space Odyssey are nothing more than a sham. According to microbiologists at the University of California, the International Space Station (ISS) is actually just as dirty as the living room you’ve neglected to dust since you moved in.
In a study published in the journal PeerJ, astronauts aboard the ISS were told to swab down fifteen surfaces in their living quarters and work areas to see what kinds of bacteria are living up there. These were then compared to swabs taken from people’s homes, cell phones, and shoes down here on Earth collected by the Human Microbiome Project and Project MERCCURI.
While researchers didn’t find any traces of facehuggers this time, they did find a healthy ecosystem of microbes similar to the crew of germs inside of your apartment. A large percentage of the bacterial species found were Bacillus. Goes to show that astronauts are actually closer to home than they think.
“So ‘is it gross?’ and ‘will you see microbes from space?’ are probably the two most common questions we get about this work,” David Coil, a microbiologist at UC Davis, said in a statement. “As to the first, we are completely surrounded by mostly harmless microbes on Earth, and we see a broadly similar microbial community on the ISS. So it is probably no more or less gross than your living room.”
Humans are living, breathing bacterial hubs. Every person is estimated to be carrying trillions of microbes at one time. A few thousands of these are sure to find their way around the ISS every time someone aboard coughs or sneezes.
There can be as many as ten people crewing the ISS at one time. Since it’s essentially one big astro-dorm, it should be no surprise that the bacteria found onboard resembles that of what we find in homes.
Always remember, where there are humans there is filth. That’s a guarantee.
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