It turns out the International Space Station (ISS) collects dust like any home here on Earth.
The dust has been provoking allergic reactions and causing irritation for the astronauts who call the ISS home.
On Earth, we control our allergies to dust and dust mites by cleaning our homes with HEPA-filtered vacuums and pulling out carpets. But at least the dust at home settles.
At the ISS, it’s a different story – one of floating dust that’s easily inhaled.
In an effort to improve the health and wellness of the crew members, NASA is undertaking an experiment to sample airborne particles on the station.
“Collecting this data will help us to ultimately build a particulate matter monitor so NASA can improve the environment for astronauts on station and other long term missions in deep space,” says Dr. Marit Meyer of the NASA Glenn Research Center.
The space agency plans to collect airborne particles in the ISS through two portable devices. The samples will be studied by scientists using a range of microscopic techniques on Earth.
“For six hours at a time the sampler collects particles as small as nanometer sizes, given off by the astronauts where they exercise and work,” Dr. Meyer says.
NASA is hoping the data they collect will help determine if the current filtration system is suitable as they look at long-term exploration missions.
For more on NASA’s sampling experiment, see here.