Laundry in space is a pretty straightforward concept, but it doesn’t seem like it could work—there are so many challenges involved, from getting the washer and dryer to work properly to keeping clothes clean in zero gravity. But the real question is: can they do it?
The answer is: they don’t! Since there is one task that space people haven’t mastered: washing their dirty clothes in space.
It is common for us to wash our stained or smelly clothes in a washing machine to get them clean again before re-wear them. Unfortunately, space travelers don’t have the same option. so, what do they do? Let’s find out!
What Do Astronauts Do With Their Clothes?
Astronauts’ clothes don’t get dirty as quickly as on Earth because they don’t pick up dirt from the outside environment. Also, the space travelers don’t sweat much on the ISS due to their controlled temperatures.
Furthermore, everything in space is almost weightless, so astronauts don’t have to exert much energy just moving about or doing their daily activities. And yes, it is impossible to have washing machines on the ISS.
It takes energy to lift heavy materials into space, including water, which is very costly to transport from Earth to Space. As a result, a rocket can only physically transport a certain amount of water to the ISS.
Additionally, it would be very costly to send them fresh clothes every time they go to the space. That’s why each person has a limited supply of clothes. Until they smell or are too dirty to wear any longer, these are worn again and again. Mostly, they don’t change specific garments for more than a month in the space.
Here, using a disposable clothing system is more economical than washing clothes in space that’s why astronauts should need to replace clothes regularly and discard used ones.
What is the Cost of Sending the Clothes on the Earth?
Many people ask this question when they see images of clothing floating around the sky. They think about all the water needed to wash the clothes, the energy needed to power the washing machine, and the electricity required to dry the clothes after they are washed. But what many don’t realize is that the cost of sending the clothes to space is actually less than the cost of transporting them to earth from space.
For a six-month ISS Expedition crew to have a clean pair of underwear every day, at least 540 pairs of underwear would have to be launched into space. If you add in the launch cost of $5,000 to $10,000 per pound, that’s some very expensive underwear.
Due to this, astronauts must extend the wear time of their underwear so that it lasts their entire time on the ISS. As a result, Russian cosmonauts wore their underwear on the Mir Space Station for a week before washing and putting on new underwear.
It is more economical to use a disposable clothing system than wash clothes in space.
NASA Plans to Launch the First Washing Machine into Space
You may not think of your washing machine as important, but you can’t do without one in space. A NASA team is currently developing a washing machine in orbit that will be used to clean spacesuits and other equipment on missions into deep space. The technology is based on a design from the 1960s called the Advanced Washing Machine.
The washing machine will help determine how the space environment impacts the functionality of consumer products. The washing machine will be the first testbed for NASA to study the impact of space on the environment.
Also, Tide collaborates with NASA to think about washing people’s clothes in space. Tide has developed a highly biodegradable detergent set explicitly for space travel to improve astronauts’ hygiene and remove stains. The space station will send a team to test the detergent in 2022 via a cargo launch.
Do Astronauts Wash Dishes?
As there are many stations, ISS doesn’t have showers which mean no water. That’s why astronauts don’t clean their dishes and use disposable food containers.
How Do Astronauts Keep Their Living Quarters Clean?
To keep walls, floors, and windows clean, space travelers wipe them. They clean their forks, spoons, and eating trays with the same wipes and cleaners. To clean things, they use wet wipes.
Do Astronauts Wear Diapers in Space?
Now various absorbent garments and space diapers have been developed. Space travelers wear this item of clothing during liftoff, landing, spacewalks, and other activities they cannot accomplish by going to the bathroom.
Why Do Astronauts Need Spacesuits?
Spacesuits help space people in several ways. They face very different temperatures while spacewalking and during Earth’s orbit, temperatures can drop to -250 degrees F. In the sun; they can get as hot as 250 degrees F. An astronaut’s spacesuit protects them from those extreme temperatures.
In the future, we’ll have the technology to be able to clean clothes in space and it will be no longer impossible for astronauts to do laundry. In 2022, Tide’s detergent may be tested on the International Space Station, offering the possibility of doing laundry in space and a specific washing machine will complement all the needs.
Let’s wait for the future!