General, Research, Technology

Why can't cleaning be done in the dirtiest section of the ISS?

During the coronavirus pandemic, many of usconvinced of the importance of regular cleaning in home rooms. A layer of dirt and dust constantly forms on the floor, potentially dangerous bacteria live on door handles, and dirty windows are simply unpleasant to look at. True, general cleaning of the house, if desired, can be postponed, but not at the International Space Station. Far from the surface of the Earth, multiplying bacteria can cause many problems, from illness in crew members to equipment failure. Therefore, every Saturday on the ISS there is a “cleaning day”, during which astronauts and cosmonauts vacuum, collect debris and treat surfaces with antibacterial agents. But one of the compartments of the international station has remained dirty for several years. However, there is nothing to worry about - dirt is collected in the name of science!

Basically, the inside of the ISS is perfectly clean. But there is one dirty place ...

Bacteria in space

On space stations it is absolutely impossibleallow bacteria to grow. Scientists were convinced of this in 1998, when the Russian Mir station began to break down after 12 years of service. Constant power outages and errors in computers spoke of the imminent failure. At that time, few people thought about bacteria at the station, but at one point the inhabitants of Mir decided to study them. Having opened one of the removable panels, they were surprised to find several clots of water there, teeming with bacteria and fungi.

This is what the Mir station looked like

These microscopic organisms must begot to the station together with people. There is no particular doubt about this, because before being sent into orbit, each module underwent thorough disinfection. And the assembly itself was carried out in strictly sterile rooms. In those days, cleaning at the station was not mandatory, so organisms could reproduce peacefully. Fortunately, the bacteria did not cause illness in the crew. But they settled in large numbers on the seals of the portholes and, over time, could completely break the tightness of the station. And some types of bacteria fed on cables and were able to ruin equipment.

See also: 7 strangest experiments in space

Cleaning in space

Since then it has become clear that in spacestations should be perfectly clean. Every Saturday, crew members put their business aside and disinfect all surfaces. In addition to bacteria, dust that can enter the interior of electronic equipment and cause a fire is a major hazard. A special vacuum cleaner is used against dust, which is shown in the video below. It also shows European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake wiping the surface of walls and a computer. After all this, he takes out the garbage bag, which has filled up over several days.

One of the "dirty" objects on the ISS

After all, do not forget that in the future people wantfly to the moon, and then to Mars and other distant planets. During such flights, bacteria cannot be allowed to grow - if an epidemic of any disease begins inside the ship, it will be a terrible disaster. A material capable of killing bacteria is very useful for the medical industry. At a minimum, it will be able to prevent infections and slow the spread of diseases within medical facilities.

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The results of the MatISS experiment are still unknown.But there are already several antibacterial materials in the world. For example, in mid-2020, I talked about an Australian development that rips the outer shell of bacteria to shreds and kills them. If you are interested, follow this link and read the details.