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First Time Ever: NASA Scientists Identify Microbes in Space

NASA has been working to identify microbes on the space station for some time now, as it could help diagnose astronaut illnesses right there and allow identification of extraterrestrial life, if it ever comes around.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have managed to identify microbes found in space without having to send samples back to Earth.

Microbes have survived in the vacuum of space, previously having to be sent back to Earth for testing. There was no way to find something in space and identify it promptly on the spot.

According to the publication Science Alert, the study of microbes involves isolating the DNA of samples, and then amplifying or making copies of that DNA, which can then be sequenced. The process was divided into two parts: collection of the microbial samples and an amplification using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

This time around, NASA astronaut and biochemist Peggy Whitson carried out the experiment aboard the orbiting laboratory, with NASA microbiologist and the project’s Principal Investigator Sarah Wallace and her team watching and guiding Whitson from the US.

After the microbial cells were successfully collected, the DNA was isolated and then prepared for sequencing, enabling the identification of the unknown organisms.


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