It's hard to believe that the Earth is the only planet with life in this vast, never-ending and always expanding universe. That's why it's pretty exciting that bacteria has been found on the outside of the International Space Station. Yes, bacteria.

When spacewalkers head outside of the space station, they regularly take samples and materials from the hull with cotton swabs, which are then taken to and examined by scientists on Earth.

The main aim is to get a better understanding of how the International Space Station operates, but it's also to check about the possibility of extraterrestrial life in space.

It's possible, of course, that the bacteria may have been carried up into space from the Earth, but a Russian cosmonaut has suggested that also might not be the case. In fact, he was very adamant that wasn't the case.

"Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs," explained Anton Shkaplerov to Russian news agency TASS. "So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull."

While such a statement might be jumping the gun slightly, he nevertheless pointed out that 'there is no danger' - and scientists are now working to find out exactly what this bacteria is.

Shkaplerov said that bacteria from Earth had been found on similar missions but that despite its origins, it could survive the very different and very harsh environments of space, as well as temperatures between -150 and 150 degrees Celsius.

Of course, if the bacteria, does come from somewhere other than our planet, it would be a major discovery.

Because even if extraterrestrial life doesn't mean little green or grey men - this time - this bacteria would open up the doors to whatever else might be lying - or floating - out there in space.

via GIPHY

While Shkaplerov is certain that what was found genuinely does originate from space, we're not going to count our chickens - or our alien bacteria - before they hatch.

Let's just hope they don't turn into astronaut-eating parasites that ultimately kill off everybody on board the space station. Umm, for instance.

Words: Mischa Pearlman

Featured Image Credit: PA

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