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A rare new microbe has been found in two different clean rooms, one in Florida and the other in South America.
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.
Some other microbes have been discovered in a spacecraft clean room and found nowhere else, but none previously had been found in two different clean rooms and nowhere else. Home grounds of the new one are about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) apart, in a NASA facility at Kennedy Space Center and a European Space Agency facility in Kourou, French Guiana.
Unlike the bacteria found on ISS, this microbe does not appear to pose any specific health problem. It does provide biologists with a good example of the kind of life that might survive in hostile environments like Mars.