Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov recently brought up the possibility that some of the bacteria samples they have gathered from the external surface of the International Space Station may have been extraterrestrial in origin.
In an interview published by TASS, the state news outlet by Russia, the cosmonaut suggested that the routine bacteria swabs that astronauts and cosmonauts have been gathering from outside the ISS may include some microscopic life that did not originate from Earth.
"And now it turns out that somehow these swabs reveal bacteria that were absent during the launch of the ISS module," Shkaplerov said, as quoted by Newsweek, before offering some assurance that these microbes seem to be harmless.
"That is, they have come from outer space and settled along the external surface. They are being studied so far and it seems that they pose no danger," he explained, perhaps referring to the Test and Biorisk initiatives that continuously monitor the Russian modules aboard the ISS.
NASA has not yet offered an official comment about the claim, perhaps because it's a theory that's not easy to both prove or disprove. The ISS has sections that have been in orbit for almost 20 years now, and all the complex modules, resupplies, and crew rotations have left their load of microbes on the facility over the years.
Russian scientists also claimed to have found what looks like sea plankton in the samples collected off the surface of the ISS years earlier, according to CNET. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, have also pointed those interested to know more about the alien bacteria to their study on the possible biological matter in asteroids and comets.
Anton Shkaplerov, meanwhile, is scheduled to return to the ISS next month in what would be his third trip.