News & Opinion | June 7, 2018 5:00 am

This Indestructible Bacteria Threatens to Contaminate Other Worlds

Scientists discover that Acinetobacter is so strong it even eats NASA's powerful sterilizing products.

James Webb Space Telescope engineers and scientists work  in a clean room at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland on April 2, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/ JIM WATSON (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
James Webb Space Telescope engineers and scientists work in a clean room at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland on April 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ JIM WATSON (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

NASA keeps its clean rooms sterile to avoid exporting our bacteria to other planets and other celestial bodies, but nothing seems to be able to kill the powerful bacteria known as Acinetobacter. According to The Atlantic, new research from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona illuminates the awe-inspiring indestructibility of Acinetobacter, a bacteria so strong that it cannot be killed by NASA’s super-strong cleaning products. In fact, it eats those cleaning products.

Although the news may seem troublesome, the researchers view it as a reminder to maintain high cleaning standards rather than any sort of threat. NASA remains dedicated to “planetary protection,” which means not contaminating with Earth’s bacteria any planets the space agency explores. But as lead researcher Rakesh Mogul tells The Atlantic, “There’s no such thing as 100 percent sterility. There will always be something there.”