Living in the cramped quarters of the space shuttle or the International Space Station for weeks or even months at a time can get 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.
Yet, washing up in space can be a challenge. To keep clean, shuttle astronauts bring along a personal hygiene kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, comb, razor and other items.
Astronauts 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.
Astronauts change their shirts, socks and underwear every two days, and their pants 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.
In addition to keeping themselves clean, astronauts also have to keep their living quarters spick-and-span. Each member of the shuttle 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 shuttle 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 odors, and is then returned to the living cabin. Solid wastes are stored onboard until the shuttle lands and liquid wastes are sent out into space.
To learn more about eating and keeping clean in space, look over the links below.
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More Great Links
- "Eating in Space." NASA. http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibitions/attm/a11.jo.es.1.html
- "Space Hygiene." NASA. http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/living/spacehygiene/index.html
- "Space Station." PBS. http://www.pbs.org/spacestation/station/living_eating.htm
- "Food for Space Flight" NASA. http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/factsheets/food.html