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How dirty is a International Space Station? An astrobiologist weighs in.


Things can get flattering disorderly adult there. (NASA)

Let’s face it: Floating 220 miles above Earth in a hermetic space hire for months doesn’t sound like a many spotless venture. After all, even inhabitants of a junkiest dwellings on land have a advantage of occasional uninformed air. Earlier this year, wanderer Scott Kelly described the International Space Station’s singular aroma as something same to a reduction of antiseptic and garbage. There’s no certain approach to spin that one. But how purify (or dirty) is a International Space Station? New research on a spacecraft’s singular bacterial population contains some calming news — and a few icky insights.

[Why American astronauts splash Russian urine]

In their query to impersonate a cleanliness of a ISS, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory got a verbatim mud on the station. Astrobiologist Kasthuri Venkateswaran and his colleagues complicated a HEPA filter that had been on a qualification for 40 months (there are 21 sum on a qualification during any given time). They also got their hands on dual bags of dirt from a ISS opening cleaner. It competence not sound glamorous, though a daily brush is one of a crew’s many tasks.  


Astronauts have to spend time in cleanrooms before they fly. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

After behaving a genetic analysis, a group compared its data to waste from NASA cleanrooms on Earth. Aimed during preventing decay in space, purify environments of this inlet have been in use given a Apollo era. Ideally, both the cleanrooms and a space station are designed to be giveaway of a germs and waste of a outward world. But there’s a vital disproportion between a dual venues: Only one is used as a home.

[NASA reminds us that wanderer poop browns adult ‘like sharpened stars’]

The disproportion was transparent in DNA investigate of a opposite dirt samples. Skin germ called Actinobacteria were most some-more prevalent on a ISS — not too startling for a place that serves as a full-time wanderer apartment. Samples from a opening bags, that contained dirt that was usually a day old, boasted critters like Staphylococcus, that can means diseases trimming from food poisoning to skin infections. The commentary advise that astronauts collect adult some-more skin microorganisms with their vacuums than with their filters — and that a atmosphere being circulated by a ISS is most cleaner than a surfaces.

In fact, a viable microbial race of a opening dirt collected from a ISS was roughly 75 times that of a filter and scarcely twice a race found in cleanrooms on Earth. That’s substantially due to a fact that people are vital on a ISS, though also indicates that a HEPA filter is flattering good during filtering out vital organisms long-term.

[You’re surrounded by a cloud of germ as singular as a fingerprint]

But there were also some nasty hitchhikers on house that couldn’t be found in a cleanrooms on Earth: Opportunistic pathogens like Propionibacterium. It’s not certain either these pathogens are indeed dangerous to astronauts in a sealed sourroundings of a space station, says Venkateswaran— though he wants to find out. Next, his group will investigate either a germ are damaging and how microgravity affects their expansion and prevalence. Not usually will a microbiome of a International Space Station offer as a baseline for destiny studies, though it can assistance surprise improved cleaning protocols and investigate on how to keep destiny Mars astronauts protected during their prolonged voyage.

To Venkateswaran, a con of watchful months for samples and relying on a plug that usually fell from a sky to broach them is value it. After all, he laughs, astronauts could enlightenment or method some of a pathogens in space, though it competence spin a International Space Station into “a drifting time bomb.” Getting a bit unwashed now could assistance astronauts equivocate illness and even interplanetary contamination in a future.

So is a International Space Station unwashed or clean? Venkateswaran puts it into perspective: “The ISS is a singular built environment. People assume it’s filthy, though it’s not. It’s many, many times cleaner than your lavatory during home.”

Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) is a freelance publisher from Boulder, Colo. She is a author of The Heroine’s Bookshelf (Harper). 

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Why American astronauts splash Russian urine

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Article source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/10/27/how-filthy-is-the-international-space-station-an-astrobiologist-weighs-in/

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