The final frontier: doing laundry in space

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Workers pressure wash the logo of NASA on the Vehicle Assembly Building, in Cape Canaveral

By Siddharth Cavale

(Reuters) - Ever wondered how astronauts aboard the International Space Station do their laundry?

Well, they don't, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working hard to solve what is one of the most thorny tasks in space - washing clothes.

The space agency is planning to conduct a series of experiments using specially designed detergents from Procter and Gamble to find a long-term solution to the problem, the U.S. consumer goods giant said on Tuesday.

The vital nature of water on space missions has meant that astronauts have simply jettisoned used clothes, happy in the knowledge they will disintegrate as they re-enter the atmosphere.

As a result, NASA sends 160 pounds of clothing per crew member to the International Space Station per year.

For the longer run, with the U.S. agency and Elon Musk's Space X eyeing manned missions to Mars, there needs to be a more sustainable solution.

Labeled NASA Tide after P&G's main washing powder, the first tests on the new detergent to evaluate the effects of micro-gravity and radiation will take place on a cargo flight to the ISS next year and, subsequently, in the space station itself.

P&G will also send some additional equipment for treatment and image analysis, even though the ISS has most of the equipment necessary for the experiments.

Identical experiments will be conducted on Earth at the same time, using the same materials in order to study the differences, P&G said.

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale; Editing by Patrick Graham and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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