Published February 24, 2009
Sometimes it's just really hard to kill a bug.
According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, a mosquito managed to live 18 months clinging to the outside of the International Space Station, without any food, being bombarded by radiation and enduring fluctuating temperatures ranging from minus 230 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We brought him back to Earth. He is alive, and his feet are moving," Anatoly Grigoryev of the Russian Academy of Sciences told RIA Novosti.
The buzzing bug was part of a larger experiment in which bacteria, barley seeds, small crustaceans and larval insects were placed in a container strapped to the exterior of the space station, which orbits in zero gravity about 200 miles above the surface of the Earth.
From the RIA Novosti report, it wasn't clear if the insect — which may in fact be a non-biting midge rather than a mosquito — was placed in the container in the larval or the adult stage.
A European Space Agency experiment last fall found that primitive animals called tardigrades, also known as water bears, survived an even harsher exposure to space, including full vacuum and direct solar ultraviolet blasts. Moreover, several of the surviving tardigrades were able to normally reproduce.