Kids Feature

No Washers or Dryers in Space
The international space station has better things on it than older spacecraft.
Image of the ISS over Earth

It has the best free gym off the planet! One thing it still does not have is a way to wash clothes. You are orbiting the Earth on a ship with no washer. What do you do with your dirty underwear? There are four things you can do.

Image to left: Astronauts live and work on the ISS for six months. Credit: NASA

Number One -- Wear It Again

Image of astronaut washing a pair of shorts in a plastic bag on the ISS
How much underwear would you need for three crew members? Remember that they need to have a clean pair every day. Don't forget that they are up there for six months. You would need at least 540 pairs of underwear! There is just no room for all of that on the space station.

Image to right: Commander Ken Bowersox of Crew 6 washed his shorts in a plastic bag! Credit: NASA

Astronauts don't have a clean pair for each day. Don Pettit was an astronaut on the ISS. He changed his underwear once every three or four days. That is not as bad as it sounds. Clothes don't get dirty as soon on the ISS as they do on Earth.

Number Two -- Turn It Into A Shooting Star

Russian spacecraft called Progress

The Russians send a ship up to the ISS. It flies by itself. They can only use it one time. It takes what the crew needs. The crew takes the supplies off of the ship. Then, they put the trash and dirty clothes on it. When it is full, the ship is sent back to Earth. It burns up in the air over the Pacific Ocean.

Image to left: Astronauts get to throw their dirty clothes away! Credit: NASA

Number Three -- Grow Plants With It

Pettit thought he would try to grow some plant seeds he had on the space station. He had a problem. There is no soil on the ISS. He had to think of some other way to grow the plants. He decided to use an old pair of underwear. He folded the underwear. Then he sewed them together. He used space toilet paper for the outside! This toilet paper is not like toilet paper on Earth. It worked great! The seeds started growing in two days!

Number Four -- Feed It To Bacteria
This idea can't be used right now. But, it may be used one day. Russian scientists had the idea to use tiny one-celled living things. They are called bacteria. They would eat the astronauts' cotton and paper underwear.

Astronauts are very smart. They work hard. They keep in shape. They are friendly and caring people. Now, you know their little secret. No matter what their mothers told them -- they don't always wear clean underwear.