What is space archaeology?
The International Space Station (ISS). Photo: NASA
A recent study uncovers how astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) interact with items onboard like scientific tools, workout equipment and personal belongings.
It’s part of a new scientific field called space archaeology, which studies manmade objects that return from outer space.
Why you should know: Many experts believe space archaeology will improve living conditions for astronauts in the future.
Researchers from the ISS Archaeological Project (ISSAP) partnered with NASA and Leidos to observe the packaging, transportation and use of cargo sent from Earth to the ISS in 2018.
Findings: The study sheds light on how and why certain items returned, and the impact they had on the crew and station.
- The ISS is congested with more than 77,000 pieces of equipment.
- Managing the equipment safely requires a highly disciplined lifestyle.
- Personal items like family photos, wedding bands and sports memorabilia are often an astronaut’s only tangible connection to home while in space.
- These belongings also become their only tangible connection to space once they return home.
From the source: “Astronauts have been living and working in a mini society unlike any place on Earth for 22 years, a society the human body hasn’t evolved for,” said Justin Walsh, one of the founding members of ISSAP. “By studying how the crew adapt their behavior, materials and environment in space, we can understand better ways to execute in the future.”
Looking ahead: Data captured by the study will be used to improve new commercial space stations and equipment. Many could travel to space in the coming years based on NASA’s plan to create a permanent lunar station.
When the ISS retires in 2028, many space archeologists hope it will be preserved to educate future generations about early life in space.
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