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Preventing Sick Spaceships

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the that-is-not-a-pleasant-mental-image dept.

NASA 91

An anonymous reader writes "The official NASA home page has a writeup on one of the lesser-known dangers of living on a Space Station: space germs. 'Picture this: You're one of several astronauts homeward bound after a three-year mission to Mars. Halfway back from the Red Planet, your spacecraft starts suffering intermittent electrical outages. So you remove a little-used service panel to check some wiring. To your unbelieving eyes, floating in midair in the microgravity near the wiring is a shivering, shimmering globule of dirty water larger than a grapefruit. And on the wiring connectors are unmistakable flecks of mold.' The article goes on to describe the unlikely circumstances that form these micro-ecologies, and what astronauts do to deal with the situation."

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unbelievable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097593)

believe it

Why, use the space toilet, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097661)

Why, use the space toilet, of course

mod me,oh,frlog,mod me

Re:unbelievable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097855)

Habeeb it.

Deep space Homer (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097623)

Just open the hatch and blow it all out.

Re:Deep space Homer (2, Interesting)

Davak (526912) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097669)

In college I worked on developing a space-station waste-water treatment plan for NASA. The human wastes were converted through microbacterial and plant systems into crystal clear drinking water and very healthy crops.

One of the problems, however, was how to handle evaporation. Water in the air of a space craft equals mold, fungi, microbes, etc.

One of the potential solutions was to vent the humidity to space.

Re:Deep space Homer (3, Interesting)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097885)

Seems odd that with all that recycling, simple dehumidification would be such a problem. All you need is a cold surface and ventilation across it. Standard dehumidifyers use closed system evaporation to produce this effect, but I bet the hull of the ship on the dark side gets pretty cold. I'm sure it would be easier to take advantage of the existing heat loss, rather than using energy for a compressor.

Re:Deep space Homer (5, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098497)

The greatest problem in dealing with air recirculation on a space ship or a space station is the weightlessness. No gravity - no convection. From there on hot and cold pockets are free to form around the place and there is no means to deal with them. Same for local humid pockets, same for condensation. The last is the worst. In the presense of gravity the chilled air will flow away from the cold object and be replaced by new air. Same for water. It will drip somewhere. In weightless conditions it will just sit there and provide nice environment for rust and rot. And evolve. In an accelerated manner under the influence of cosmic radiation. The rumour goes that some of the moulds on Mir around the end of its lifetime could eat plastic (or at least the plastifier out of it).

IMO from one point onwards this problem alone can justify any of the classic "spinning wheel" designs. It may end up cheaper building something big enough to spin it compared to dealing with the environmentals in a medium size station (or ship).

Re:Deep space Homer (3, Interesting)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098769)

Us airplane drivers are very familiar with the phenomena of carburetor ice. Simply running the air through a venturi (or maybe a vortex tube [sas.org] ?) will reduce the pressure and temperature sufficiently to dehumidify it. Then you can redirect the fast moving air to "sling" the water out, which carries much more mass, thus momentum, to where ever you wish. I don't know if this has been tried and dismissed as impractical.

Re:Deep space Homer (1)

Hammerself (560585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19100949)

Are you serious about that accelerated evolution? Why aren't we taking advantage of this? We should be breeding mold and bacteria up there to... do stuff. Down here. You know, like... eat stuff.

We'd have to be sure they never got out into the wild. Which they almost certainly would.

Actually, five seconds of thought tells me this is a terrible idea. In fact, don't ever do this or tell anyone about this.

Re:Deep space Homer (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19101119)

Which may be why we need at least some level of gravity on space ships. Just a slow roll should solve this. Of course, the real problem is going to be what happens to human over a long haul. That was suppose to be solved by the CAM (centrifuge access module). Sadly, W's team canceled it. Hopefully the next admin will add it back in (it is actually all built and ready to be launched).

Re:Deep space Homer (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097919)

One of the potential solutions was to vent the humidity to space.

? [72.14.253.104] :-)

Re:Deep space Homer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19102373)

If you vent to space you don't get rid of the problem. You just push it outside.

Is the outside of your craft resistant to having blobs of water and mould growing on it? Especially the crevices in the manoevering jets and the hatches which eject parachutes?

Re:Deep space Homer (2, Funny)

cbacba (944071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19103943)

In general, there's nothing like shortwave uV to dispose of unwanted fungii and bacteria. Unless maybe, it's the andromeda strain.

lack of gravity causing problems: add spin (1)

lpq (583377) | more than 7 years ago | (#19104835)

Seems like the problems mentioned wouldn't be problems if there were some artificial gravity. Perhaps adding spin to part or all of the air craft?

I keep wondering when they are going to build the Space Station -- the one shaped like a bicycle wheel. I keep expecting they'll make progress "someday", but they continue to hang out in the "temporary quarters".

Certainly, the space station should move toward being a more livable "habitat", which, it seems, should include gravity? Would .1G or so be difficult? Can we make the station strong enough to support some minimal spin? It would seem to make many things "easier", even though we want 0G for some tests. Have a core section that doesn't spin for the 0G tests.

?

Space Vacuum Cleaner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097625)

What is needed is just a vacuum cleaner and a jettison device. If there is dirty water or mold, then use the vacuum cleaner to suck up the crap. Then, remove the vacuum-cleaner bag and pop it into the jettison device. It then jettisons the bag into outer space, creating the first piece of interplanetary roadside garbage.

What is not stated, by NASA, is how to deal with sperm fluid resulting from wet dreams or, outright, masturbation. The vacuum cleaner will suck that gook up. Also, with a little imagination, putting a special attachment on the cleaner will enable it to give the best blow job ever.

Re:Space Vacuum Cleaner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097899)

They would probably use a sanitation bag. They cover their penii with a plastic bag and transform the liquid into it, and then seal it.

Or even more likely, they take turns giving blow jobs to the crew.

Thou shalt not swallow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19098345)

Which means that the problem is not really solved...

Re:Space Vacuum Cleaner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097937)

What is needed is just a vacuum cleaner and a jettison device.

Except vacuum cleaners don't work in zero-G :P

Re:Space Vacuum Cleaner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19098557)

Why not? I would assume Vacuum cleaners do not work in airless environments

Re:Space Vacuum Cleaner (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19098315)

This is why female astronauts are VITAL.

Re:Space Vacuum Cleaner (1)

rhaas (804642) | more than 7 years ago | (#19100449)

Score: 1, Informative ????

Slime... (2, Funny)

kksm19820117 (1100955) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097631)

As long as I don't see any of that 'Alien' slime, I won't be worrying too much. :)

Re:Slime... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097833)

"Is this going to be a standup fight, sir, or another bughunt?"

They cut the power (4, Funny)

DragonHawk (21256) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097997)

Is this going to be a standup fight, sir, or another bughunt?

Given the lead-in to the article, wouldn't "How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!" be more appropriate?

:)

Class Five Full Roaming Vapor" (1)

Lt.Hawkins (17467) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097633)

Imagine their surprise when they opened a rarely-accessed service panel in Mir's Kvant-2 Module and discovered a large free-floating mass of water. "According to the astronauts' eyewitness reports, the globule was nearly the size of a basketball," Ott said./quote
A real nasty one too!

In other news (0, Flamebait)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097639)

President Bush declares 'Globulars' (we think he meant globules) and mold living in islamofacist micro-ecologies to be 'enemy combatants determined to subvert US interests in space' [space.com] . The status of grapfruit and dirty water is still thought to be under consideration.

Oh Boy... (4, Interesting)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097651)

Does this summary remind anyone else of a certain Voyager episode?

In all seriousness this is an interesting issue I've never heard about before. You'd think the media would be all over this as an actual new space story, it's been so long since anything new was really done (new in the sense of something you'd never think about). This begs the question of whether astronauts and their equipment should be decontaminated before going into space, sure there are microorganisms in their bodies but it would still probably be beneficial.

This also makes me wonder if NASA plans it's airflow so as to avoid situations where air is being blown into an area that the astronauts rarely visit and that is beneficial to bacteria, perhaps air flow could become a big part of space vessel designs so that situations like this are avoided?

All in all an interesting story.

Re:Oh Boy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097901)

This begs the question
NASA plans it's airflow

Mod parent up. (+1, writes like a scientist)

Re:Oh Boy... (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#19099099)

In all seriousness this is an interesting issue I've never heard about before. You'd think the media would be all over this as an actual new space story,

It's not a 'new' space story - not if you are actually familiar with the state-of-the-art, as opposed to feeding at the teat of the mass media. It's a well known issue - NASA was studying it as far back as Skylab. Heck, Michael Collins (yes that [wikipedia.org] Michael Collins) used it as a plot point in his book Mission to Mars [amazon.com] back in 1990!

there are no electric fences in space..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097653)

what else were they supposed to pee on?

Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097665)

So why bother having all these small enclosed spaces inside the livable area? Keep them in areas without air, and just put on a suit when they need to be inspected.

Re:Easy solution (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097891)

The problem with this approach is that it takes about 4 hours to prepare for an EVA using current US spacesuits. With the soviet designs it takes a lot less, but the suit is more rigid and less comfortable to work in.

And both are very bulky, so, it won't work in tight spaces.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19098237)

It takes the lady astronauts even longer - "Commander, does this spacesuit make my butt look big?"

Re:Easy solution (1)

TrebleMaker (628707) | more than 7 years ago | (#19100177)

lady astronaut: "Commander, does this spacesuit make my butt look big?"

Commander: "No.... it's the other way 'round".

Re:Easy solution (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19101143)

In Soviet Russia, your butt makes spacesuits look big.

Re:Easy solution (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 7 years ago | (#19100847)

putting them in vacum raises a number of issues
1: EVA doesn't suit tight spaces or fiddly tasks, that means you have to make everything MUCH bigger to allow it to be maintained by EVA than to allow it to be maintained in a habitable atnosphere.
2: EVA is slow, putting on the suits takes a long time and all work done in them is much slower than that same work would be in a habitable atonosphere.
3: EVA is considered risky. Not as risky as takeoff or landing but certainly not something to be done without great care and a lot of planning.
4: vacum is unfriendly to many types of electronic assemblies (though this can be avoided by carefull choice of materials). Its also unfriendly to any pipes carrying liquids or gasses for several reasons including the fact that (assuming the pipes ultimately serve stuff inside the space station) that the relative pressure between inside and outside the pipes will be much higher.
5: vacum-non vacum boundries are a bitch to take wiring through (think a large metal lump with carefully machined brass pins individually incased in glass for insulation embedded in it).

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19102445)

"5: vacum-non vacum boundries are a bitch to take wiring through (think a large metal lump with carefully machined brass pins individually incased in glass for insulation embedded in it)."

That would be much like the wiring junction between my car body and my car door, then?

Re:Easy solution (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19103377)

You seem keen on apples and oranges.

Moya and friends (4, Interesting)

Fox_1 (128616) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097697)

Well not really, but we seem to live best in a natural habitat - city dwellers have higher rates of asthma, there are always cases of sick buildings on the news(bad vents, mold, chemicals), and now fungus eating away at the structure of our space craft. We are really good at building big shiny metal boxes that look like they will stand up to anything, but a little bacteria and the whole thing crumbles. This is a pretty decent justification for 'Leviathan' type spacecraft - partially organic - capable of adapting to organic issues in a way that a metal box just fails.

Re:Moya and friends (1)

kksm19820117 (1100955) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097733)

A cyberbetic spacecraft you refer to. Imagine the billions of dollars in research that will consume. How about a strong antibiotic spray instead?

Re:Moya and friends (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097867)

Because antibiotics used willy nilly will eventually harm the humans the portend to protect. We humans need other symbiotic organisms to survive. Killing off the 'environment' to a sterile state will lead to dead humans eventually.

Re:Moya and friends (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097883)

Or something even simpler learned from the Navy: if you keep the bilges dry and don't allow standing water to form anywhere then you don't get crazy growth--except the slime molds that grow on the inside of the hull due to condensation on the cold steel. For spacecraft this translates into designing your atmospheric systems so that you don't get water droplets anywhere and having your astronauts be able to inspect and clean all enclosed areas completely and regularly. For those who are familiar with Navy terminology: commence field day! For those who aren't it means you get to clean extra hard for an additional 4 hours a week (compared to your normal 1 hour per day cleanup).

If the Navy can keep growth to a minimum under a steam powered water distillation unit (lots of water, lots of microbes, and lots of heat, lots of minerals, and difficult to clean) then astronauts can keep it clean in space.

Re:Moya and friends (4, Interesting)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#19099453)

Additionally, there isn't any reason we can't develop better ways to clean, as well.

Completely inaccessible areas could be setup to flush themselves with ultraviolet light, and either an intensely antimicrobial coolant (fluid or gaseous) or a vacuum (possibly both). Anything else can be design to easily be taken apart and cleaned. This has the added benefit of making maintenance easier.

Re:Moya and friends (1)

rizole (666389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098805)

You'd think someone would buy NASA the DVD set, they obviously haven't thought it through properly.

Re:Moya and friends (1)

Jasper__unique_dammi (901401) | more than 7 years ago | (#19099259)

I bet the future technology will look more "biological" anyway -in saying that i do not mean that it will directly be based or even look like on organisms we know. I kind of dislike the idea of basing it directly on existing organisms, since we wouldnt really know how it works. Also the idea is that: To fix something complicated makes it more complicated, to fix something simple makes it simpler. (not for all cases of course) Also, i wonder if future technology will also feature cancers and virus-like problems, but i do not think so because those are probably products of co-evolution (like) processes and byproducts of the crappy "evolution design technique". (hmm, nano-bots, could be a bit virus-like, could be designed for warfare :/, guess it is a known idea -greygoo)
As someone else replied however, making satelites "more biological" is currently hardly a practical engineering solution, guess they would look into airflow issues (also)behind hatches and such. I dont think these "growths" and water condensations will do much damage in a hurry, as long as you build stuff redundantly.

Subject : you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097717)

dodge this [lastexitonly.com]

Bottom Line (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097719)

Eight year round trips to Mars are never going to work. Name me one voyage that lasted longer than even one year without having to dock in some fashion.

We will never be able to fully explore, experiment and gather resources in out solar system if trips between planets take 5+ years. We need to look into saner proplusion systems that seperate the ground to orbit engine from the interplanetary engine. Even sci-fi shows seem to have grasped that fact.

Re:Bottom Line (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097739)

Name me one voyage that lasted longer than even one year without having to dock in some fashion
Pigs in Space. I dont recall the USS Swinetrek ever docking.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

kksm19820117 (1100955) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097765)

How will separating the two help? Unless, of course, you mean that the interplanetary engine be based on a sci-fi idea like a hyperspace-drive or an anti-matter engine.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097863)

How will separating the two help? Unless, of course, you mean that the interplanetary engine be based on a sci-fi idea like a hyperspace-drive or an anti-matter engine.

I'd guess he means 'send up the fuel on a space elevator', but I'm not really sure.

Really, we'd be best off sending the ISS or something similar to Mars, but that's going to take a *long* time to build with the status-quo. But if we could use our heavy lift rockets (ICBM or Saturn V), and drop off all the parts, then use the ISS as an assembly station - we could probably build a ship that could get us to Mars. Maybe that's why Bush is so keen on getting ISS done before the Shuttle is retired.

It's not really that big of a project (where big == expensive) - we could do a Mars mission for the cost of the Iraq war, I think - we just need some decent leadership in Washington that really cares about the Adventure, like Kennedy did.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097907)

IIRC no ICBM thing would qualify as heavy lift. And they are not even designed for orbital flight.

We don't know how to build a Saturn V. We have the plans, but we have neither the expertise to build one nor the factories needed to build its parts.

NASA thought about resurrecting the SV, but found it would be better and cheaper to do something with current expertises (the Ares series) than to re-learn 50-yo tech.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098683)

Glancing at this chart http://www.averillpark.net/space/booster.html [averillpark.net] the SV is almost double the next-biggest current, historical or future launch platform.

How do we not have the expertise to build one? I can see not having a factory big enough, but engineers are smart, the plans already exist.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098873)

Ares V is in the same class as the Saturn V.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#19099837)

Reviewing the relevant wikipedia articles, it seems that the Ares V is superior to the Saturn 5 design, at least in terms of payload capacity.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#19099885)

Digging a little further, it seems that this series [wikipedia.org] of super rocket was at one point explored by NASA. The larger versions of this would have had substantially better payload capabilities than either the Ares or Saturn 5s.

We've forgotten the development. (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19099425)

How do we not have the expertise to build one? I can see not having a factory big enough, but engineers are smart, the plans already exist.

Just because you have the plans doesn't mean you know how to build something. Any good machinist can tell you this.

There's a lot of 'tribal knowledge' that goes into the construction of something as big as a spacecraft, or for that matter anything really big and complicated. (You could say the same thing about a nuclear submarine or a microprocessor.) Fire all the people involved, and even with all their documentation, it can take years and millions of dollars to get a new group of people back up to where the old team was -- there's just so much that can be written down, too many little bits and pieces of information critical to making something that only exist in various people's heads.

The Saturn V was produced by a team of people (including von Braun) who had in some cases been working on rockets for decades; it was the culmination of years of work and a series of other projects just on the NASA side, to say nothing of the thousands of contractors who were basically employed full-time on rocketry-related projects. Virtually all of the people involved have since retired, and probably many of them are dead; even with whatever documentation was saved, the knowledge that they had (probably thousands or millions of man-years of experience) is immeasurable and would take a vast national effort to rebuild.

It's not that today's engineers aren't good; it's just that they'd be starting out at a fairly sizable disadvantage, and would probably be working under very harsh expectations ("well, you did it once, how hard can it be?"), which is one of the reasons why I suspect NASA is so reluctant to look back at old designs compared to making new ones from scratch.

Rebuilding a new Saturn V, like rebuilding a brand new fast-passenger steam locomotive, or WWII bomber, seems trivial on the surface because we know what the final product looked like, and have all the schematics; but what's lacking is all the institutional knowledge that went into the actual realization of that design in metal.

Re:Bottom Line (2, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098951)

IIRC no ICBM thing would qualify as heavy lift. And they are not even designed for orbital flight.

Russia is doing it [wikipedia.org] , at least. Also, we launched Cassini, with a modified ICBM [wikipedia.org] . But you're right, even that can only do half of what a Saturn V can do.

Just to be clear, I was talking about dumping the cargo in LEO and burning up in the atmosphere, not having the rockets actually stay in orbit

Re:Bottom Line (2, Funny)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097793)

Eight year round trips to Mars are never going to work.

Sure it can! We'll do it just like we did when we went to the moon. No one will give away the secret.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

Alaria Phrozen (975601) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098131)

Oh please, Fox blew the whistle on that 6 years ago http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0277642/ [imdb.com] and then the .gov guys covered it up http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast23feb_2 .htm [nasa.gov] and then they got a .com to say of course the government did it http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/tv/foxapollo.html [badastronomy.com]

..just like on that South Park episode about the kids who said 9/11 was done in the studios too. Or something.

Re:Bottom Line (1)

asninn (1071320) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098341)

Sci-fi shows have also "grasped" the fact that it would be nice if we had FTL travel, beaming, phasers and so on. However, it takes more than an idea to actually make things work - real science is more complicated than "hey, it would be cool if we had X". You can't just will things into existence; you need to design and build them, and in order to do that, you need to both create the theoretical foundations *and* overcome a lot of practical obstacles.

In sci-fi shows, none of that is necessary, so of course it's easy for them to "grasp" the fact that it would be nice to have all sorts of stuff. All *they* need is a writer with a bit of fantasy.

Re:Bottom Line (3, Funny)

Philotic (957984) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098363)

>>Eight year round trips to Mars are never going to work.

Certainly not with that attitude. :P

Re:Bottom Line (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098555)

Name me one voyage that lasted longer than even one year without having to dock in some fashion.

I dunno... do you count "running aground on the shore of an uncharted desert isle" as docking?

Re:Bottom Line (1)

radish (98371) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098703)

Well it's not a space voyage for sure, but these guys [1000days.net] are planning on being at sea on a small yacht for three years, with no resupplying or docking. They can catch fish, but apart from that they're on their own.

Pirates (1)

chifut (998159) | more than 7 years ago | (#19105561)

Yup, I know them. Some time ago these were called pirates..

Re:Bottom Line (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 7 years ago | (#19123105)

Eight year round trips to Mars are never going to work. Name me one voyage that lasted longer than even one year without having to dock in some fashion. We will never be able to fully explore, experiment and gather resources in out solar system if trips between planets take 5+ years. We need to look into saner proplusion systems that seperate the ground to orbit engine from the interplanetary engine. Even sci-fi shows seem to have grasped that fact.

I think we can figure out how to spend 8 years in space! Remember, the sail boats that Columbus used to come to America weren't very comfortable. I'd love to know how the Polynesians managed to cross to Hawaii.

Certainly, if our ancestors were able to figure out how to cross oceans using primitive technology, we can figure out how to cross space using primitive technology.

I've seen this device before ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19097761)

I believe it's called a Tricorder. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tricorder [wikipedia.org] Just ask it to tell you what life forms are present.

And this is why (2, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097831)

I voted for Moya in the poll. Moya took care of such things quite well where as other shows/ships never addressed this problem, or others regarding biological problems. In quite simple terms, the dust of dead skin cells and the mites that go everywhere with us would eventually cause problems. Moisture from the air (our breath for example) can be collected and used by micro organisms and would eventually cause problems somewhere on a long space voyage. A toilet is not sufficient to handle human waste as we drop dead cells and living organisms everywhere we go.

Re:And this is why (1)

haxot (1099335) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098035)

Moya would be the ideal; but before we'd have Moya-style ships, we'd have http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexx [wikipedia.org] Lexx style spaceships. Unfun, messy, smelly, very "alive" spaceships, before we got to the highly refined, people-friendly Moya style Ah, for organic spaceships. The mechanics would be marvelously interesting.. would they be grown ala matrix-style, thousands of embryos attached in a massive stack being watched for defects as they mature? Or more personal, molly-coddled pampering?

Hmmm (1)

AlphaLop (930759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097837)

I think I would rather of Tribbles.... They wouldn't set off my OCD as much ;)

Re:Hmmm (1)

AlphaLop (930759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097857)

Grrrr. of = have. I gotta lay off the dope :)

Perhaps microbe contamination is a good thing (3, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097877)

Before anyone mods me down for trolling consider this: do you really think it would be a good idea for astronauts to exist in a completely sterile enviroment for years on end? What do you think this would do for their immune systems? At the very least they'd be seriously impaired by the time they came back to earth and possibly they could even die of some common microbe that is of no concern to people with healthy immune systems. At the worst their immune system could go into auto immune disease mode and then you could well end up with your spacecraft arriving at mars with just corpses strapped in the seats.

Re:Perhaps microbe contamination is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19098461)

At the worst their immune system could go into auto immune disease mode and then you could well end up with your spacecraft arriving at mars with just corpses strapped in the seats.
Well, on cruise ships you get the Norwalk virus... [wikipedia.org]
Maybe on space ships you get the Nowak virus? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Perhaps microbe contamination is a good thing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19099563)

do you really think it would be a good idea for astronauts to exist in a completely sterile enviroment for years on end?
Where do you think the microbes come from in the first place? Even if you floated the spaceship through a big bubble of bleach before bringing the astronauts on board, you'd end up with microbes all over the ship in next to no time.

Anti-Microbal concerns (2, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097895)

While the article raises some interesting concerns it seems more likely to me that living in a completely anti-microbal environment would be more dangerous. You would have to spike the astronauts immune systems and slowly reintegrate them into the world when they returned.

Anyhow, my suggestion would be including an extremely small temporary habitat that the astronauts occupy every so often while the main quarters are made inhospitable to living organisms. Maybe some combinations of prevasive UV, dehumidification, and extreme heat? It wouldn't matter that the microbes will reenter the main hab with the astronauts if you did this often enough... they would not have enough time to multiply.

Then again, I know nothing about this branch of science.

Regards.

Re:Anti-Microbal concerns (4, Funny)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098033)

Then again, I know nothing about this branch of science.
Has that ever stopped anyone on slashdot?

Yucky (1)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097931)

That's all I got...yucky.

Anyone else seen Red Dwarf? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#19097933)

From their description of the LOCAD-PTS unit, I'm reminded of the psi-scan in Red Dwarf...

"Here are the results [of the scan] and we're going to.... live"

Amazing coincidence...(Voyage Home) (1)

keith_nt4 (612247) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098121)

It just so happened I have been watching the DVDs of an apparently little-known sci-fi series, the new Outer Limits from showtime, and saw an episode almost indistinguishable from the hypothetical in the description. The episode was called "The Voyage Home" featuring Michael Dorn (a.k.a. Warf). Him and two others were traveling back to Earth from Mars when they discover a strange substance on their ship. Here's more info (with spoilers) -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voyage_Home_(The_ Outer_Limits) [wikipedia.org]

I really recommend the series by the way. A lot of Trek alumni are featured in episodes (the one with Lenord Nimoy was pretty good).

Re:Amazing coincidence...(Voyage Home) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19121361)

Him and two others were traveling back to Earth ...
Him was Worf. Worf Smash Wharf. Gggrrrr!!!!

Moisture is a common problem. (2, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098123)

The problem of moisture accumulating in all the wrong places is a common problem, not only for space stations, but on terra firma as well.

The way to be sure that you don't get wet is to have the correct ventilation. This is easy to say but complicated to implement. One way is to configure ventilation to pass dehumidifiers and let the dry air be released in the electric compartments and allow it to leak out into the occupants space from where it is collected, cleaned and dehumidified again. On long-term space missions it will be a critical issue to re-circulate all water and not vent it into space.

Another more complex way is to seal off all electronics and use an inert gas in all electronics compartments. However, this is a very complex solution and it will certainly be hard to keep it safe and sound for a mission that will last for years.

Bad smell (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098365)

My understanding is that MIR got a bad smell over time, undoubtedly due to the microbial & fungal contamination, and that one
module got so bad that the crews didn't like to go in it.

Also, contaminated water "balls" could undoubedtly create the conditions for Legionnaires disease, which is pretty fatal.

Re:Bad smell (1)

ProfessionalCookie (673314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19101795)

Depends on who its infecting. Legionnaires is better at taking down immunocompromised people such as the old scientists at the Philadelphia convention for which the disease in named.

Cowboy Bebop (1)

lachesis-jp (886896) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098545)

That's why it is bad to accidentally leave a Ganymede rock lobster in fridge for a Year.

Ancillary Benefits (1)

not-admin (943926) | more than 7 years ago | (#19098749)

Another example of technology developed for the space program that could assist us earthbound folks as well.

The LOCAD-PTS described in the article seems superior to any other method of portable biological detector present in the market (That I know of), could this be an effective device for the detection of biological weapons?

Or even, in a more mundane manner, for companies that specialize in flood recovery?

Space germs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19100699)

They've got nothing on ... SPACE MADNESS!!!

Hmmmmm..... (2, Funny)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#19100929)

"I'm sorry Dave, but I'm afraid I can't do that."

Vacuum and gassing the bacteria (1)

Feng (63571) | more than 7 years ago | (#19101753)

How about just donning spacesuits every few weeks/months and then cycle the air in the ship with some form of gas that'll kill the bacteria?

A vacuum should deal with the moisture accumulating behind panels wouldn't it? So you pump the air out, pump some gas that's harmless for the ship's equipment but will kill germs, pump it out, and then replace the air.

If the ship is compartmentalized then you can do this in sections, but a spacesuit might be useful just in case.

built in destruct (1)

fuliginous (1059354) | more than 7 years ago | (#19102415)

The risk to all life of these space mutated creations is too great. We must just detonate a small nuke to eradicate the whole vessel and eliminate the problem completely.

Or shunt them into a space graveyard come bio-warfare storage zone to be used against alien invaders.

Artificial gravity should be a top priority. (2, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#19102447)

Without gravity, lots of things become very difficult to do. A lot more money should be thrown into researching physics and finding out how to control/simulate gravity.

simple (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19104155)

Design the intrament manals in a manner wher there is a breez moving through them. Make the metal casing out of mesh.

Also make them easy to come apart and make it a daily regement to clean them.
You will have lots of free time on the way to Mars.

Solution... (1)

LEX LETHAL (859141) | more than 7 years ago | (#19104281)

Use a portable vaccum with a hepafilter and a canister of Lysol wet wipes.
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