Russians scientists have started testing dust samples taken from the outer surface of the International Space Station (ISS) to confirm the results of earlier tests that suggested that micrometeorites and comet dust bombarding the ISS in low Earth orbit could contain alien or extraterrestrial life forms. The Russian news agency Tass reported on Friday, May 26, that Russian experts based their conclusion that ISS surface dust could contain alien life on previous experiments conducted under a study called "Test."
According to the Russian space agency Roscosmos, there is reason to believe that micrometeorites and comet dust bombarding the outer surface of the International Space Station (ISS) could contain microbial life forms that are entirely of extraterrestrial origin.
"The micrometeorites and comet dust that settle on the ISS surface may contain biogenic substance of extra-terrestrial origin in its natural form," Roscosmos said in a statement released on Friday, according to Tass.
"The ISS surface is possibly a unique and easily available collector... of biomaterial of extra-terrestrial origin."Russian astronauts had collected 19 dust samples from the outer surface of the ISS during spacewalks conducted since 2010, as part of a series of experiments called "Test." Preliminary laboratory tests carried out on the samples raised suspicions that the dust on the surface of the ISS could contain "biomaterial" of alien or extraterrestrial origin.
However, according to Newsweek, Russian analysts would have to carry out more exhaustive tests before they are able to confirm that the suspected "biogenic substances" are alien life forms or microbes of extraterrestrial origin. But the Russians have expressed conviction that careful analysis should yield definitive results because "ballistic specialists have found that the ISS spends 60 percent of its time in flight inside comet substance flows," Tass reported.
Most importantly, the researchers would have to determine conclusively whether the alleged "biogenic substances" are alien or native to Earth.
Earlier in 2014, Roscosmos scientists announced the discovery of traces of simple life forms, including microbial plankton, algae, and "bacterial DNA," in samples of dust collected from the surface of the ISS. Vladimir Soloyev, the head of the Russian ISS orbital mission, confirmed at the time that scientists found live microbial forms, including plankton, in material collected from the outer surface of the windows of the ISS.
"Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further," Soloyev told Tass, according to Newsweek.Russian officials said at the time that the plankton could not have been carried to space by Russian spacecraft because they were alien to the Baikonur region in Kazakhstan from where the Russians launched their ISS module into space.
However, the Russians suggested that the plankton might have been "uplifted" to the ISS from other regions of the Earth by high altitude air currents. Although the Russian researchers thought that the organism were not alien microbes, they noted that the discovery provided evidence that alien microbial life forms could survive in space vacuum under subzero conditions and constant bombardment by cosmic radiation. According to Roscosmos scientists, the discovery suggested that micrometeorites and comet dust could contain alien microbes, that is, microscopic forms of life that evolved entirely in space or originated from another planet.
This spurred the Russians to focus interest on searching for alien microbes in dust samples collected from the surface of the ISS. NASA spokesperson Dan Huot confirmed at the time that the Russians were originally not looking for alien microbes when they began collecting samples from the outer surface of the windows of the Russian segment of the ISS.
"What they [were] actually looking for [were] residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements, like windows, as well as just the hull of the ship itself that will build up whenever they do thruster firings for things like re-boosts," Huot told Space.com. "That's what they were taking samples for."
However, Huot and other NASA officials expressed skepticism about the claim by the Russians that they had found live microorganisms on the ISS.
"As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they've found sea plankton," NASA spokesman Huot said in response to an inquiry by Space.com.
However, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) later confirmed it was aware that Russian researchers had found "bacterial DNA" on the surface of the ISS, Newsweek reported. But DLR said it could neither confirm the details of the claim nor vouch for the methodology of the study."The method by which the samples were analyzed in this case is disputed, as it cannot detect all kinds of bacteria and it also cannot test whether the discovered bacteria are living and thriving or not," DLR spokesperson Alisa Wilken, said.
Although Roscosmos did not dispute the statement by the DLR, it is clear from the latest series of tests that the Russian experts had suspected that there could be alien microbial organisms or alien "DNA" in the dust samples. The current tests are therefore designed to confirm or disprove suspicions that dust material from the exterior surface of the ISS contain alien life.
Meanwhile, the British astrobiologist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, of the University of Buckingham, has hailed the Russian study as potentially the "most significant development of the century" that could revolutionize our understanding of life on Earth and in space.
"We are closer now than ever before to acknowledging that extraterrestrial life forms exist, it is a very exciting development," he added, according to Express. "For years people have tried to debunk theories of life on other planets, very soon they will simply not be able to do this."
Professor Milton Wainwright, of the University of Sheffield and the University of Buckingham Center for Astrobiology, who claimed in a previous series of studies that he found algae-like particles of extraterrestrial origin in the Earth's stratosphere, also hailed the Russian study.
"We think that one possibility is that the organisms originate from comets, a view which is in line with existing long-standing theories.""These are amazing reports from Russia where scientists are claiming they have found life in cosmic dust on the outside windows of the International Space Station," he said. "Coming from an official of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, it gives real impetus to what we have been saying for years, that there is life outside Earth."
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