In space, there is no such thing as waiting for the dust to settle. Rather than drifting to the ground, dust particles float about continuously and can irritate eyes and lungs.
By recording how much nitrogen oxide he exhales in space as part of the Airway Monitoring experiment, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is helping researchers understand how to monitor, diagnose and treat lung conditions like asthma here on Earth.
The findings of this monitoring will also be crucial to exploring the Moon and even Mars – where dust is considered even more toxic and must be carefully managed for astronauts’ health.
The Airways Monitoring experiment has been underway since 2015. Later in the Horizons mission Alexander will repeat the experiment in the reduced pressure of the airlock.