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The First Archaeological Space Experiment Is Happening Aboard the ISS

A team of scientists has started the first-ever archaeological project aboard the International Space Station (ISS), a press statement reveals.

The goal is to observe how humans adapt their living behaviors while in space for months at a time. As a point of reference, the longest stay aboard the ISS so far is NASA astronaut Christina Koch’s 328-day stay, which ended last year.

“We’re the first to try to understand how humans relate to the items they live within space,” explained Associate Professor Justin Walsh of Chapman University in California, one of the study leads. “By bringing archaeological perspectives to an active space domain, we’re the first to show how people adapt their behavior to a completely new environment.” 

The International Space Station Archaeological Project (ISSAP) started this week with its first experiment, called the Sampling Quadrangle Assemblages Research Experiment (SQuARE). The aim of this step was to create the equivalent of a test pit in space. On Earth, archaeologists dig a one-meter square test pit (3.28 ft) to understand the site they are investigating and plan what to investigate next.

Since a dig site cannot be made in space, the ISSAP team will be making use of adhesive tape to outline one-meter areas of ISS for investigation. The investigations will be carried out through daily photographs for a total of 60 days. these photographs will show how multiple spaces are being used.

The “pits” will be in different areas, like the galley table, the workstation, and a wall near a latrine. The ISS crew were also asked to choose one final test area. They chose one of the racks in the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny. The next two months will see the world’s first space archaeologists start to investigate a space habitat in close to real-time.