Have you received your flu shot yet? NASA reported the discovery of a previously unknown bacteria. It was found in the clean rooms of the Kennedy Space Center and a European Space Agency facility in Kourou, French Guiana. The clean rooms are where spacecraft are assembled just prior to launch. Scientists do not want to transport microbes to other places when spacecraft travel. They go to extensive efforts to sterilize these clean rooms of all microbes. Scientists survey the rooms and keep a database of known residents.
This population of berry-shaped bacteria is so different from any other known bacteria, it has been classified as not only a new species, but also a new genus, the next level of classifying the diversity of life. Its discoverers named it Tersicoccus phoenicis. Tersi is from Latin for clean, like the room. Coccus, from Greek for berry, describes the bacterium’s shape. The phoenicis part is for NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, the spacecraft being prepared for launch in 2007 when the bacterium was first collected by test-swabbing the floor in the Florida clean room.
The microbe is likely found in many environments around the world. It is also likely found in very harsh and nutrient poor places. Its ability to survive the most stark conditions of a clean room make it stand out as an important find. Nearly all other microbes were eliminated in these two locations. It is an example of the principle of survival of the fittest. What NASA scientists do not want is to transport this microbe to other space environs like Mars or Venus or the Moon where similar harsh conditions exist. It might do well there. It might already be doing well there, in my opinion.