Proud moment for every Indian as NASA pays a unique tribute to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam!

Dr.Kalam was an incredible scientist and motivation. His achievements are innumerable. India will always stay indebted to him for his relentless dedication to the nation.

His brilliance wasn’t restricted to our borders; it found resonance worldwide. As an evidence of that, NASA has paid him a tribute that is a matter of pride of all Indians.

Scientists at NASA have named a new organism discovered by them after Dr.Abdul Kalam. Till date, the new organism, a bacteria, has been found only on the International Space Station (ISS) and has not been found on earth!

The bacteria was found on the ISS by NASA’s foremost lab on inter-planetary travel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and they named it Solibacillus Kalamii to honour our former President.

“The name of the bacterium is Solibacillus Kalamii, the species name is after Dr Abdul Kalam and genus name is Solibacillus which is a spore forming bacteria,” said Dr.KasthuriVenkateswaran, senior research scientist, Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at JPL.

Dr.Kalam had his early training at NASA in 1963 before he set up India’s first rocket-launching facility in the fishing village of Thumba in Kerala.

Venkateswaran said even though Solibacillus Kalamii has never been found on earth till date, it is really not an extra-terrestrial life form.

“I am reasonably sure it has hitch hiked to the space station on board some cargo and then survived the hostile conditions of space.” He also said, “Being a fellow Tamilian, I am aware of the huge contributions by Dr.Kalam.”

Venkateswaran’s primary job is to monitor the environment of the space station so that harmful bugs do not proliferate. He heads the ‘Microbial Observatory’ on the ISS projects to measure microorganisms associated with compartments owned by the US.

His responsibilities also include monitoring the bug levels on the ISS and to ensure that all spacecraft’s that fly to other planets are free of terrestrial bugs.One of his big jobs was to ensure that NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover — the massive 1000 kg buggy — was totally sterile when it left earth.

On the matter of whether this new bug is of any use or not, Venkateswaran says, “These spore-formers tend to withstand high radiation and also produce some useful compounds protein wise which will be helpful for biotechnology applications.”

He hints that the new bug could be a key source for chemicals that can help protect against radiation damage.

Vinayak Jain