ISS astronauts keep dirty station spot for CNES experiment





 MATISS is a study focused on the attachment mechanism of biofilms in microgravity.

In the International Space Station, which has been continuously occupied for over twenty years, hygiene is a crucial element for the health of astronauts. In a closed environment, any uncontrolled bacteriological development can have disastrous effects, for example by affecting the quality of the recycled air.

Thus, every Saturday, the occupants of the ISS, armed with antibacterial wipes, disinfect surfaces, vacuum, pick up litter. No corner escapes them… or almost.



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MATISS: Microbial Aerosol Tethering on Innovative Surfaces

An area of ​​the Station does not in fact undergo any cleaning: it is intentionally left dirty. The reason ? An experiment called MATISS, the acronym for Microbial Aerosol Tethering on Innovative Surfaces (fixation of microbial aerosols on innovative surfaces).

This project studies the development of microorganisms on different materials, and more precisely the attachment mechanism of biofilms in microgravity situation, these “structured clusters of bacterial cells, coated with a polymer matrix, attached to a surface [which] protect bacteria and allow them to survive in harsh environmental conditions ”.

Alas (?), MATISS does not match our reputation as a people little inclined to hygiene: it is indeed managed by the CNES (National Center for Space Studies).




 Joking aside, according to CNES, 'the intelligent surfaces of the MATISS device react to the approach of bacteria by preventing them from landing, proliferating and creating the biofilms that protect them in a hostile environment'.



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Several phases since 2016

Conducted since 2016, MATISS has already gone through three phases. The first consisted of placing four sample holders for six months in three different places of the Columbus module. The following phases renewed the process, always with four sample holders, but installed in the same place and with different materials.

CNES believes that the discoveries resulting from this experience will, in the short term, simplify decontamination operations; in the longer term, to participate in the development of spaceships of a new kind. Land-based applications are also possible, particularly in public transport.

Anyway, the next time someone criticizes you for not cleaning up this or that place, talk about the scientific significance of such a study!


Sources : CNES, Slashgear, NCBI


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