Wiping in Space!

WIPING-IN-SPACE
Posted on Apr 15 2014
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Space – the eternal void stretching beyond imagination. However, travelling and living can get a little cramped.

Living in a space shuttle or the International Space Station for several months at a time and in tight quarters has the potential to get a bit stressful for astronauts, especially when there is limited room to keep up with your personal hygiene. We all know that living in an unhygienic environment can spread germs and cause sickness, and believe it or not, germs can multiply faster in space meaning astronauts are prone to infections.

As one of the most extreme environments humans face, you could imagine, cleaning in space can be a serious challenge with all the items floating around the cabin of yourself and everything around you. With zero gravity, it is significantly trickier for astronauts to clean and keep up with personal hygiene as easily in space as it is on Earth. When travelling to space, each astronaut is required to bring along their own personal hygiene kit, which can include the following: a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, comb razor and sometimes wet wipes! Yes – wipes are in space, too.

If you’ve ever pondered the zero gravity issue of water in space then you would be interested in how astronauts actually bathe in space. In order to stop water floating away and avoid the need to jump around trying to hit the floating water, astronauts take showers in a big cylinder that is covered with a plastic sleeve, preventing dispersal of water. They spray themselves with water from a nozzle to rinse off and then use a vacuum house attachment to suck up the water from the skin. As for their hair, a rinse less shampoo is used (sounds like a timesaver, like wipes- where have these been all our lives?!). You’re probably thinking that sounds like quite a bit more effort than us earth bound people, but living in space involves many limitations so making things as easy as it would be back at home for the astronauts is vital to mission success.

hair

However, space is more extreme than living on earth. Take a space shuttle journey to Mars. As this flight takes approximately 7 to 8 months, depending upon the relative positions of the Earth and Mars, showering with water is unlikely a feasible option, which is why most of the astronauts have no other choice but to use wet wipes to keep up with their hygiene.  The mission to Mars is a ways off, but the same principles apply to long space missions.

The use of wet wipes in a space environment and an astronaut’s life comes in very handy when water can be a challenge. Doing chores is not always a fun thing to do, whether you live on the Earth or Space. In addition to wipes for personal care, specific kind of wet wipes are useful to astronauts for cleaning the equipment, floors, walls and windows, too. They use wet wipes for cleaning their forks, spoons and eating trays as well. Using wet wipes minimises the risks of germs and bacteria spreading and causing everyone on board to become sick - as mentioned before, the risk is much higher and the consequences greater!

Believe it or not, astronauts have to do some regular cleaning chores too. The waste management system on a spacecraft or space station does not operate in isolation.  It is integrated into other systems associated with the environmental control and life support. There are 4 different types of waste disposal bins on the Space Shuttle which 3 is for dry waste and 1 is for wet waste. The wet waste is anything that could smell very bad and is similar to an ordinary waste disposal bin. It is connected to a hose which drives all the bad smells away from the astronauts. As for vacuuming, this needs to be used as often as needed to vacuum clean areas that may be hard to reach as well as keeping any specks of dust out of the air filters. And sometimes, when things get loose and float away, astronauts use the vacuum to ‘catch’ any floating objects that are out of their reach.

So we bet you’re feeling a bit more appreciative for those hot showers you get in the morning and thankful for gravity!  So the awesome convenience and variety of wipes are certainly recognised by those who break free from earth’s atmosphere and explore the universe. Being an astronaut and living in space is an extraordinary and somewhat exciting lifestyle, but it’s a choice made by those that make our planet a little bit more interesting and make science go beyond the parameters of the Earth.  

Sources:

Astronauts eat in space

Living in Space

Humankind on mars

Universe Today

Waste Management on Space Station 2020

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Add a comment:
Hello, I am a 5th grade science teacher. I have a team of 5th grade students who are doing research on the effects of disinfectant cleaners vs essential oil cleaners (ultimately, could essential oil wipes be used on the I.S.S.?). We were wanting to know what specific type of wipes are used on the I.S.S.? Are they the same brand or have the same composition as hospital wipes or are they made solely for the I.S.S. (a microgravity environment)?
Thu September 6 2018
Interesting
Mon May 19 2014
Interesting article
Mon May 19 2014
We always carry wipes when going out with two kids
Sun May 18 2014
Interesting article,
Sun May 18 2014
Fascinating, in space they may not hear you scream.. But they sure can tell if something is dirty =)
Sun May 18 2014
Very, very cool. Who would have thought of using them in space, next time im there i`ll make sure i do xx
Sun May 18 2014
very interesting, would never have thought that they used wipes in outer space!? pics are awesome
Sun May 18 2014
Interesting :)
Sun May 18 2014
really interesting
Sun May 18 2014
nice!
Sun May 18 2014
Amazing
Sun May 18 2014
Good to know, I often wondered!
Sun May 18 2014
allways got some in the car for when we go out
Sun May 18 2014
Keeping Space clean : )
Sun May 18 2014
Sounds like Nasa must love wipes - so handy in space!
Sun May 18 2014
Funny how you dont think of stuff like that.
Sun May 18 2014
Fantastic read i use wipes every day
Sun May 18 2014
Nice, informative read
Sun May 18 2014
Fantastic read, wipes are so important i use them everyday
Sun May 18 2014
Very interesting to read how astronauts manage to keep clean in space. I always have Wipes in the kitchen and bathroom.
Sun May 18 2014
Science never fails to amaze us!
Sun May 18 2014
Not something I had thought about before
Sun May 18 2014
I love reading anything to do with space, would love to go one day!
Sun May 18 2014
very nice for the astronauts!
Sun May 18 2014
cool
Sat May 17 2014
Great way to keep germs from spreading!
Fri May 16 2014
Feeling clean is a wonderful thing. Wipes help !
Thu May 15 2014
Wow! Cool read on outer space utilization of wipes!
Thu May 15 2014
Sweet
Thu May 15 2014
I like feeling clean down there !
Thu May 8 2014
I keep some in my wheelchair backpack
Thu May 8 2014
awesome
Thu May 8 2014
An astronauts job isn't easy. Ha
Thu May 8 2014
cool
Wed May 7 2014
I couldn't imagine not taking a shower for months and months. Thank god for wet wipes.
Wed May 7 2014
nice
Wed May 7 2014
Wow, I really appreciate wet wipes and what they help me keep clean because I use them for fast facial cleanses before applying makeup and after having a natural bathroom break just to feel clean and refreshed. The astronauts must perform these actions to maintain healthiness from germs on a greater level and out of necessity, whereas I as well as many use wet wipes for quick cleanups out of convenience and cleanliness. Either way the wipes allow us to feel and smell clean while also being germ-free or at least germ controlled.
Tue May 6 2014
i learn something new every day
Tue May 6 2014
Having two grandchildren..Wipes are a life saver !! I don't know how my Mom ever did it with six kids and no wipes !!
Tue May 6 2014
very cool...
Tue May 6 2014
Interesting!
Tue May 6 2014
This was interesting
Tue May 6 2014
You would never want to be wiped out in outer space.
Sun May 4 2014
Do the wipes work upside down
Sat May 3 2014