This question might be more of a sci-fi question, so forgive me. It was inspired on behalf of the movie Life (2017) where the crew aboard the ISS catch a soil sample from Mars, and discover that it contains a dormant cell lifeform of sorts. This, as you can imagine, ends up being catastrophic for the crew.

Now please humor me for a moment. I understand what I am asking is well beyond any realism, but I think it is still applicable to consider even in realm of 0.00000000001% possibility of happening.

Question: In the event that foreign life is discovered and brought aboard the ISS, and in the event that, somehow, containment of this foreign life fails and is now loose aboard the ISS; (from NASA's perspective) are there any procedures on what to do in such a situation? Has any such scenario ever been assessed?

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    $\begingroup$ Look up the fungus that is constantly scrubbed on ISS, and overgrown Mir. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jun 20, 2017 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


I don't believe any such procedures have ever been seriously considered.

Since there are vastly greater research capabilities on Earth's surface than on the ISS, and it takes a much greater amount of ∆v to rendezvous with ISS in orbit than to plow into Earth's atmosphere from a Mars return trajectory, there is zero reason to return a sample from Mars to ISS.

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    $\begingroup$ This does address the body of the question, but the title or body may need to be revised as this certainly does not address the title of the question. There are definitely biohazard containment failure procedures on the ISS--they just aren't for extraterrestrial contaminants. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Jun 23, 2017 at 20:22

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