Russian cosmonauts have discovered something remarkable clinging to the outside of the International Space Station: living organisms.
The microscopic creatures appeared during a space walk intended to clean the vessel's surface, and were allegedly identified — incredibly — as a type of sea plankton. This is big: According to Sploid, Russian scientists are both "shocked by [the] discovery and can't really explain how [it] is possible."
"Results of the experiment are absolutely unique," Russian ISS Orbital Mission Chief Vladimir Solovyev told the ITAR-TASS News Agency. "This should be studied further."
"We have found a habitable environment," said John Grotzinger, project scientist for the Curiosity mission. "The water that was here was so benign and supportive of life that if a human had been on the planet back then, they could drink it."
Mars may have once been capable of supporting microbial life for hundreds of millions of years in the distant past, new findings from a long-lived Red Planet rover suggest.
NASA's Opportunity rover, which celebrates 10 years of Mars exploration today (Jan. 24), has uncovered evidence that benign, nearly neutral-pH water flowed on the Red Planet around 4 billion years ago.
Ancient Mars featured flowing rivers and sizable lakes — but that doesn't mean the Red Planet definitely could have supported life, one prominent researcher stresses.
The presence of liquid water is just one of many factors that researchers need to take into account when investigating the past or present habitability of Mars or any other cosmic body, astrobiologist and mineralogist Pamela Conrad wrote in a "Perspectives" piece published online on Dec. 11 in the journal Science.
"The things that make a place livable are numerous, and sometimes, there's a showstopper you didn't think of," Conrad, deputy principal investigator for the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity rover, told SPACE.com. "So it's important to take a poll of the diversity of attributes that could contribute to making an environment livable or not."