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Week 5: Space Living 101
10.12.07
 
View of surface tension demonstration using water that is being held in place by a metal loop After my body "wash" the other day in 1 ½ inches of water from a dixie cup, I became very curious about how astronauts in space wash up, brush their teeth, and use the restroom.

I did a little research and found out that the space station does have a shower unit, so astronauts can take showers in space if they want to. The fact is, most astronauts don't want to. Showers don't work well in space.

Image at right: View of surface tension demonstration on board the International Space Station. The water is being held in place by a metal loop, resulting in "elastic water." Image credit: NASA

Up on the space station, the water drops are as weightless as everything else, so they just float around inside the shower. Can you imagine having to grab each individual droplet and smear it on your body to get clean? I'd get more tired from struggling with water droplets than from running on the treadmill!

I can see why astronauts and cosmonauts prefer to wash with wet towels and sponges instead. I just hope the astronauts get to use more water than I was rationed in the ELS module.

I also found out that astronauts use a regular toothbrush and toothpaste. Tooth brushing is the same as on Earth, except there is no sink to spit in, so they have to spit into a tissue.

And how DO they use the bathroom in space? I'm sure school children ask that question all the time. That's the way they think.

Here is a nice explanation from http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/living/index.html:

"...astronauts have to position themselves on the toilet seat, using leg-restraints and thigh-bars. The toilet basically works like a vacuum cleaner with fans that suck air and waste into the commode. Each astronaut has a personal urinal funnel, which has to be attached to the hose's adapter. Fans suck air and urine through the funnel and hose into the wastewater tank."

So that's Space Living 101, for all you future astronauts. Still wanna go?

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Dauna Coulter (Schafer Corporation)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center