While most of us are now much more careful about keeping our homes and workplaces clean, cleanliness aboard the International Space Station is imperative.
Antibacterial measures are of great importance as bacteria tend to accumulate in the constantly recirculating air of the International Space Station.
Every Saturday in space is a “cleanup day” as surfaces are cleaned and astronauts vacuum and collect debris.
However, there is an area on the station where cleaning is prohibited. But don’t worry, it’s all for science!
Of Matisse’s experimentOr by applying microbial aerosols to innovative surfaces on the International Space Station, five advanced materials are tested and their success in preventing pathogenic microorganisms from settling and developing into microgravity.
Matisse also provided insight into how biofilms adhere to surfaces under microgravity conditions.
The experiment was sponsored by the French space agency CNES and designed in 2016. Three iterations of the experiment were used on the International Space Station.
The first was MatISS-1, and four sample containers were set up over six months at three different locations in the European Columbus laboratory unit.
This provided the researchers with a few basic data points: When they were brought back to Earth, the researchers marked the sediments on each surface and used the control material to create a benchmark for the level and type of pollution.
MatISS-2 had four identical sample holders with three different types of material installed in one location in Columbus. This study aimed to better understand how contamination spreads over time on hydrophobic (water repellent) and control surfaces.
The improved Matiss-2.5 was prepared to study how contamination – this time in space – spread over hydrophobic surfaces using cartridge samples. This experiment lasted a year and the samples were recently returned to Earth and are currently being analyzed.
Samples are made from a diverse blend of advanced materials such as self-assembled monolayers, green polymers, ceramic polymers, and hydrophobic hybrid silica.
Smart materials should prevent bacteria from attaching and growing over large areas, making them easier to clean and healthier. Experiment hopes to find out which materials work best.
The European Space Agency says so “Understanding the effectiveness and potential uses of these materials will be essential in the design of future spacecraft, especially those that carry human relatives into space.”
Of course, long-term manned space missions will have to reduce the biological pollution of astronaut habitats.