Aliens have been found aboard the International Space Station.
Scientists have discovered three new genetic variants of bacteria inside the manned spacecraft that orbits Earth 15 times a day at 250 miles high.
The microorganisms were found in separate locations, including a special plant growth chamber where researchers attempted to grow crops in weightless conditions.
The three strains of Methylobacteriaceae – which are “rod-shaped and capable of movement” – were “previously undiscovered”, according to a NASA study published in the scientific journal Frontiers In Microbiology.
Researchers believe they could aid in the eventual colonization of Mars because their characteristics include the growth of vegetation.
The discovery was deemed so significant that the boffins now want to expand the station to include a new biology lab to collect, process and analyze microbes in space without having to send them back to Earth.
Scientists have studied the craft – launched in 1998, operated by five international space agencies and manned by changing crews of seven astronauts – for the presence of microorganisms for at least six years.
NASA scientists Dr Nitin Kumar Singh and Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran said the newly discovered strains could be a game-changer for the future of space crops.
They said it was essential to find new bacteria that help plants grow under stressful conditions in extreme locations with limited resources.
“Rather than sending samples back to Earth for testing, an integrated microbial monitoring system that collects, processes and analyzes samples on-site, in space, using molecular technologies, would dramatically speed up the process,” says the website.
“The researchers believe that these three newly discovered strains could be useful in helping vegetation growth on Mars, as Methylobacterium species are known to promote plant growth,” he continues.
“It will be a challenge to nurture and grow plants when we finally start a colony on the Red Planet.”
The discovery of the new bacterium “could make things a little easier”, he concludes.
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