If you’re one of the human races few that are going to “boldly go where no man has gone before”, then keeping clean could be a problem in zero-gravity. After all as a representative of this planets most evolved species you don’t want to be ‘stinky’ if E.T. comes a-knocking on your space crafts door. So in the name of inter-galactic relations we at guernseyDonkey.com have been doing some research into how our space going representatives keep themselves presentable.
Keeping Clean in Space
Living in the cramped quarters of the space shuttle or the International Space Station for weeks or even months at a time can get very stinky if astronauts aren’t careful about their personal hygiene. Dirty living can spread germs — which actually multiply faster in space — and can make the astronauts sick.
Washing up in space, as you can imagine, can be a challenge. To keep clean, shuttle astronauts brought along a personal hygiene kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, comb, razor and other items.
Astronauts can take showers in a big cylinder that is enclosed by a plastic sleeve to prevent the water from floating away. They spray themselves with water from a nozzle to rinse off, and then use a vacuum hose attachment to suck up all the water from their skin. To wash their hair, they use a rinseless shampoo. They also have the option of a sponge bath.
Astronauts change their shirts, socks and underwear every two days, and their trousers once a week. Because there’s no washing machine available, their clothes become disposable — they simply put their dirty clothes in plastic bags and throw them away.
Each member of the crew takes turns at housekeeping duties, which involve collecting the trash and cleaning the dining area, walls, floors and air filters. To clean up, the astronauts spray a liquid detergent called biocide on surfaces and then wipe it off. They use a vacuum cleaner to clean out air filters.
The astronauts dispose of their food packages in a trash compactor under the floor. They clean utensils and trays with wet wipes.
Without a septic tank or sewer system, wastes from the toilets also need somewhere to go. Because of the low-gravity environment, the toilets onboard use air instead of water to flush. The air in the toilet is filtered to remove bacteria and odours, and is then returned to the living cabin. On the shuttle solid wastes were stored onboard until they could be taken back to earth whilst liquid wastes were sent out into space.
On the International Space Station, liquid wastes are recycled through a special water treatment plant and turned back into drinking water. Solid waste goes into a plastic bag. Each time someone goes to the bathroom, the bag clamps down and seals like a trash compactor. The bags are collected and placed into a special craft that is launched into space.