Microbial growth within an enclosed, isolated environment such as the International Space Station (ISS) could pose a potential health hazard to crewmembers. The moist, enclosed, and isolated Aquarius habitat is an ideal environment in which to evaluate existing commercial silver ion technology as a potential microbial countermeasure. Silver ion technology has been used throughout history to combat microbial growth and contamination. This technology has been incorporated commercially into textiles such as cotton and polyester, and certain types of plastics and may be useful in minimizing the presence of numerous types of microbial organisms. The objective of this experiment was to determine the efficacy of the silver ion technology as an antimicrobial.
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During the NEEMO 6 mission, crewmembers and hab technicians wore silver ion T-shirts and/or sweatshirts, and slept on sheets treated with the silver ion technology while inside the habitat. At specified times throughout the mission, the crew used the International Space Station (ISS) Surface Sampler Kit (SSK) to sample specific living areas within the Aquarius habitat for microorganisms that are detectable with the SSK. The SSK is an ISS hardware component within the Environmental Health System of the Crew Health Care System.
NEEMO 6 Crewmember feedback was overwhelmingly positive and recommended using textiles that contain silver ion.