China has prepared for construction of a space station by the early 2020s. The mission will require astronauts to stay on the space station for at least 180 days. Microbes isolated from the International Space Station (ISS) have shown profound resistance to clinical antibiotics and environmental stresses. Previous studies have demonstrated that the space environment could affect microbial survival, growth, virulence, biofilms, metabolism, as well as their antibiotic-resistant phenotypes. Furthermore, several studies have reported that astronauts experience a decline in their immunity during long-duration spaceflights. Monitoring microbiomes in the ISS or the spacecraft will be beneficial for the prevention of infection among the astronauts during spaceflight. The development of a manned space program worldwide not only provides an opportunity to investigate the impact of this extreme environment on opportunistic pathogenic microbes, but also offers a unique platform to detect mutations in pathogenic bacteria. Various microorganisms have been carried on a spacecraft for academic purposes. Acinetobacter baumannii is a common multidrug-resistant bacterium often prevalent in hospitals. Variations in the ability to cope with environmental hazards increase the chances of microbial survival. Our study aimed to compare phenotypic variations and analyze genomic and transcriptomic variations in A. baumannii among three different groups: SS1 (33 days on the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft), GS1 (ground control), and Aba (reference strain). Consequently, the biofilm formation ability of the SS1 strain decreased after 33 days of spaceflight. Furthermore, high-throughput sequencing revealed that some differentially expressed genes were downregulated in the SS1 strain compared with those in the GS1 strain. In conclusion, this present study provides insights into the environmental adaptation of A. baumannii and might be useful for understanding changes in the opportunistic pathogenic microbes on our spacecraft and on China's future ISS. © 2018 The Authors. MicrobiologyOpen published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.