How do astronauts shower in space? – Now. Powered by Northrop Grumman

Not so long ago, pursuing hygiene to preserve health was a revolutionary idea. In the late 1800s, public health heroine Florence Nightingale observed that in difficult circumstances, hard-working people “sometimes lose a sense of what it is to be clean.” To prevent and cure disease, she helped her patients maintain personal and environmental hygiene. Today, we continue to strive to maintain hygiene for health and many other reasons – both here on Earth and in space.

But staying clean enough to stay healthy is often easier said than done. Hygiene in space, where water never falls from the sky or runs into the palm of your hand, is particularly difficult. At the same time, it is essential to the health of the astronauts and the mission. On the International Space Station (ISS), 2 to 3 hours of daily exercise is mandatory and, like exercises on land, this can generate a lot of sweat. A single skin infection can stop a spacewalk, delay repairs and cost millions. It is therefore essential to practice good hygiene to protect the crew. However, soap bubbles made in microgravity can happily drift away, attaching themselves to dashboards, sensitive electronics, and other random surfaces, causing their own problems.

In a place where common sense is relative, and where even the slightest health issue can jeopardize a mission, what’s the right way to stay clean? And can any of the solutions developed by the scientists help us here on Earth?

Hand hygiene in space

Good hygiene in space is a bit like camping, a bit like being on a submarine, and a bit like throwing your used clothes and dirty dishes out the window. For now, let’s focus on the camping part.

During long rides, hygiene largely consists of washing hands, washing dishes, and removing visible dirt and sweat with damp cloths. Hand washing is especially important on the trail. Hikers may not have packed their colds and flus, but they sure did pack their gastrointestinal tracts. And wherever your guts go, so do billions of bacteria capable of causing illness in the person who brought them, as well as other campers. Poor hand hygiene has been shown to be responsible for half or more of illnesses among long-distance hikers on the trail.

To avoid similar outbreaks on the ISS, astronauts grab a sachet of “leave-in body bath.” Basically, it’s powdered soap, waiting to be reconstituted. Add some hot and cold water from the faucets in the walls, shake to mix, then squeeze yourself a scoop of ready-to-use soap. Grab it before it can land on the power converters, rub it over your hands, and pat it dry on a nearby towel. (You did bring your towel, didn’t you?)

How do astronauts shower in space?

The no-rinse body bath can be used to cleanse the whole body, although space programs have tried other body hygiene solutions. In the 1970s, the Skylab space station featured a shower that opened like an accordion, bringing water in at one end with hoses and removing it at the other with a vacuum system. For this to work, the user had to attach their feet to one end. While the idea of ​​taking a shower after a daily 3-hour workout might sound appealing, there’s only one problem: the water is sticky. On Earth, water regularly sticks to our foreheads, faces and armpits. We casually wipe it off or let it drip onto the floor. In microgravity, wiping the water from your nose with your hand means you now have water on your hand. It will stay there to some degree until you wipe it on something else. That is, assuming you can wipe it off. Water droplets have been known to accumulate in front of the eyes, nose and mouth of astronauts performing spacewalks, cutting off their ability to see, speak and breathe.

So a shower – or in Skylab’s case, a shower curtain – full of water can quickly become a microgravity cleaning disaster. Wiping every last bit of water from your body and the curtain before it migrates into someone’s career laser experience makes the prospect of a head-to-toe floating shower slightly less appealing. For this reason, in addition to its simplicity and effectiveness, sponge baths with No-Rinse or special wipes are the preferred solution. These types of baths have been used by travelers for years and continue to be used by ocean travelers in ports with little access to fresh water, including submarines, where space is so valuable. that people of both sexes use the same bathing area. Like submarines, space in space is limited. The resulting lack of privacy increases the desire for a quick, quiet, leisurely bath in an unused sleeping area, rather than setting up a roll-out shower where your teammates might pass.

Hair loss care

While astronauts can cleanse their bodies using the No-Rinse method, hair requires a bit more care. Modern space-based hair hygiene is less about showering and rinsing and more about squirting and scrubbing. The leave-in shampoo, similar to that used to wash the hair of hospital patients lying in bed, saves water, time and vehicle damage. Cutting hair and beards without throwing razor cuts into eyes and air ducts means using suction: using a vacuum in the vacuum for health, hygiene and, yes, style reasons. As international icons whose images circulate around the world, astronauts must keep up appearances. So even though launching a kilogram into orbit can cost between $1,500 and $35,000, we keep them clean – for their health and the pride of humanity in maintaining a fleet of well-groomed humans in space. .


Taking a shower when you’re accelerating towards the center of the Earth at the same rate as water is a decidedly different experience. The way people experience space is starting to change. He has already changed. “How do astronauts shower in space? is a question we continue to ask as we look forward to more and more citizen astronaut crews, space tourists and orbiting hotels full of people who probably want to enjoy their unique vacations in peace. olfactory.

What has not changed is the need to maintain hygiene to maintain human health. Right now on Earth, the lack of constant access to clean water is causing more suffering and death than wars, insects and famine combined. The art and science of water conservation and recycling that ISS crews have mastered over the past generation could save, without exaggeration, tens of millions of lives every year. As today’s astronauts hurl used clothing and contaminated food wrappers back to Earth to burn upon re-entry, that too is changing. Tide develops cleaning solutions for the ISS that require little or no water. In a world and on a resort where clean water, clean air, clean food and clean people are paramount, developing and testing the long-term technology to limit water consumption to two gallons of water per day while maintaining health and happiness is revolutionary. .

While here on Earth we have mastered the basics of hygiene and can take them for granted, astronauts must constantly keep them in mind. Practicing good hygiene in space is a necessary step to protect the entire mission.

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