New method ensures better air, water for astronauts

Washington, June 4 (IANS) Scientists have reported a new method to provide astronauts with better quality air and water, especially for future deep space mission like Mars.

Current options for testing air and water for contaminants, including microbes and radiation, requires collecting samples and sending them back to Earth for analysis.

But for long missions, this approach could take six months before the astronauts get their results.

Facundo M. Fernandez, from Georgia Institute of Technology, and colleagues wanted to come up with a system to conduct real-time, sensitive monitoring.

In the new method, they outfitted a kind of Air Quality Monitor (AQM) already used aboard space missions with a device that can vaporise water samples, turning its contents and any contaminants into a gas.

The gas can then enter the AQM for analysis.

Astronauts could also use the same equipment with a modification for testing the air.

The system could be used in space or for remote locations right here on Earth.

“The ISS is also equipped with some real-time hardware for detecting unwanted substances but it has its own limitations,” the authors said.

As astronauts embark on increasingly ambitious space missions, scientists have to figure out how to keep them healthy for longer periods far from Earth.

That entails assuring the air they breathe and the water they drink are safe — not an easy task given their isolated locations.

The new method is detailed in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.

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