When most of us think about space travel, we imagine weightlessness, stunning views of Earth, and exploring the vast expanse of the universe. But one aspect of life on the International Space Station (ISS) that is often overlooked is personal hygiene. How do astronauts maintain basic cleanliness while living in a cramped, sealed environment for months at a time?
The answer is a combination of special equipment, strict protocols, and a little bit of creativity.
First and foremost, the ISS is equipped with a toilet and shower, just like any other spacecraft. However, the toilet works differently in microgravity. Instead of flushing with water, waste is vacuumed into a container for eventual disposal. The shower, which is actually more of a misting system, is used for body cleaning rather than hair washing.
To wash their hair, astronauts use a combination of wet wipes and no-rinse shampoo. They also have special rinseless body wipes and a no-rinse face cleaner to keep themselves fresh. Additionally, they have access to a toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash to maintain oral hygiene.
But personal hygiene isn’t just about staying clean, it’s also about staying healthy. On Earth, we rely on gravity to pull waste and fluids away from our bodies. In space, however, these fluids can build up and cause health problems. To combat this, astronauts exercise for two hours a day to keep their circulation going and wear special compression garments to help prevent fluid buildup.
Another important aspect of personal hygiene on the ISS is laundry. With no access to a washing machine, astronauts have to get creative with how they keep their clothes clean. They use a combination of wipes, sprays, and hand washing to keep their garments fresh. They also have to be mindful of the amount of clothing they bring on board, as space is limited and laundry can only be done once a week.
Living in a closed environment for an extended period of time also means that cleanliness is of the utmost importance. The ISS is equipped with special air filters to keep the air as clean as possible, but the astronauts also have to do their part by wiping down surfaces and keeping their living quarters tidy.
Overall, maintaining personal hygiene on the ISS is a combination of special equipment, strict protocols, and a little bit of creativity. It may not be as glamorous as gazing out at the stars, but it’s an essential part of life in space.