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Former NASA Astronaut Explains How Hygiene Is Different in Space | WIRED

Former NASA Astronaut Explains How Hygiene Is Different in Space | WIRED
I always felt like the difference between the United States and the Russian

space

programs could be summed up by the toilet because it was indicative of what a lot of the differences were I'm Mike Massimino and this is how

hygiene

is

different

in

space

hygiene

in

space

is very important you're gonna have to do the same sort of things that you do want earth like brushing your teeth and keeping yourself clean using the bathroom all of these things are very important and very

different

because you're doing them in

space

so they do require some training and you want to do it correctly because if you don't it could lead to trouble on earth we deal with flush toilets if that's available hopefully to you you do what you need to do and then you clean yourself up then it's on to the remainder of your day but in

space

it's

different

the flights that I had in

space

were on the

space

show and on the

space

shuttle we had a lavatory it was called the WCS the waste containment system I think that was primarily because if he had a problem you didn't want to call houston we have a problem we messed up the toilet it didn't have a lot of privacy but it had some it had a privacy curtain and the WCS had a hose for urine for you to urinate into and a commode more or less for you to poop into and we want to use the word poop what do you want to poops okay we're not gonna offend then he went around a planet here okay taking a pee on the

Space

Shuttle was was...
former nasa astronaut explains how hygiene is different in space wired
pretty pretty quick and easy the holes came with an attachment that you would put on which was a funnel so everyone had their own we didn't share funnels and it was in a little compartment and you'd open up the compartment and there would be the seven funnels and you would take the appropriate one and attach it to the urine collection hose and then you would turn the system off what it does is it creates a little airflow so that it'll take the liquid down the hose and into the tank and when that tank reached a level that it was full we would do a urine dump out into

space

it would kind of crystallize and disappear more or less in the vacuum of

space

so it was okay to dump to dump urine out there if the Sun was shining who was shining through the dumped urine and beauty kind of like a rainbow effect and that was kind of cool and when you were finished you would then turn off the system you would remove your funnel you would clean it and you would put it back in its appropriate

space

then you would clean up a little bit the quickest way to do that was just a wet wipe we had hand sanitizer you could use some of that cause you don't want to spread any germs or anything like that you want to be very cautious after you get a little experience you could do other things like peeing upside down this was a challenge given to me by a more experienced

astronaut

who said it is possible to pee upside down you should try it and you can you just flip yourself upside down I...
former nasa astronaut explains how hygiene is different in space wired
need to be a little more careful you don't want to do that on day one you know you don't want a hot dog it too much but it is possible to pee upside down which is kind of cool I've done that as well people on the

space

station is a little bit

different

than what we had on the

space

shuttle you still pee into a hose but unlike these individual funnels it's a big yellow funnel in one size fits all but on the

space

station they recycle the urine along with recycling sweat and condensation all that water is collected and then it is cleaned and it is treated and it is reused so as my friend Don Pettit says today's coffee is tomorrow's coffee pooping in

space

was very involved because you really don't want to mess this up this is our orbital outhouse right here I'll show you but you see it's pretty small so you have to have pretty good aim the key to this the way it was explained to us and I agree the key to this is alignment next to our real shuttle toilet in the simulator we had a practice toilet that was not for defecating it was made for alignment practice this is actually one of NASA's deepest darkest secrets that we're going over here and this camera pointed up at you when you sat on this you had a call circuit TV right here so you would see on the camera whether or not you were aligned with the target area you would sit on there like you went on maybe on it like you think you're on a regular on a regular toilet in here and then...
former nasa astronaut explains how hygiene is different in space wired
you check you're alive like whoa-ho I'm go we're near where I want to be on this and when you get yourself perfectly aligned the idea was to then try to memorize what that body position was so on the front of this thing there were like little platform to put your feet underneath okay as you're sitting on this thing but you can still you but could still come off the back of it and that's not good so in order to keep you but on the toilet seat we had these two little arms that would press you into the seat actually to help myself get the right position as I put my arms up like this like I was riding a chopper I thought of Peter Fonda in a movie called Easy Rider that wasn't good alignment for me after you take care of business we had a couple things to watch out for we had a mirror that we would be trained to then take from there was velcro to the wall we would take this mirror and then put it behind us so as we got off the toilet we saw if anything was following us if you get that what I mean okay and if there was something following you you would sit back down and do whatever you think was necessary to make sure whatever was following you off the seat remained where am I supposed to do you do a little shake if you need to and then if things get really out of control we have disinfectant wipes just to make sure we clean up here the number-one stuff can sort of go all over the place if you don't aim correctly the poop remained in the toilet we landed...
with all of our poop and then the toilet was serviced once we got on the ground and on occasion people had messed up the procedure and therefore broken the toilet and that's really bad if you break the toilet and you can't poop in the toilet on a

space

shuttle the backup to that was what we called Apollo bags that had adhesive that you would tape to your butt that's the way they pooped in Apollo they did not have a regular toilet to use and that seemed extremely unpleasant right so we did not want to get into the Apollo bags and so that was kind of like enough to scare you you would make sure you did the procedure correctly on earth cleanliness is very important what most of us do is we'll take a shower every day brush your teeth very important to brush your teeth brush your hair we need to shave but in

space

it's a little

different

water is somewhat of a resource particularly on the

space

station and so we want to conserve what we have and a big shower would use with these those lots of water so we really can't afford to do that so what we did in

space

and what the

astronaut

still do in

space

is you take more of a sponge bath where you have one washcloth that you would put a little water on and then you could put some soap into it and then soap yourself off this is our body wash so there's soap inside of here we would fill this just like a drink bag as a valve at the top and we can squeeze the liquid soap out of it after we added water to it and...
then you would hang all of those things up to dry the ventilation system the circulation of air will allow it to dry in

space

space

is a problem so the washcloths we use were packed very tightly on the

space

station now they have ones they look like almost like a hockey puck with NASA autumn there the wash clothes are kind of cool but you want to pack them as tightly as you can and the towels we have these big fluffy towels you can get on earth that's that happening in

space

they're generally thinner towels but pretty absorbent so they work really well the use of water is so important for our life having clean water in a lot of places don't have clean water source right so we have this problem in

space

where we need to have water to live for drinking for

hygiene

and for preparing food because a lot of our food items are dehydrated so you add a little bit of water to those and so we've done a good job of learning how to effectively recycle water and be able to clean urine and water we use for

different

things so that it's usable again and so that is the type of technology that can be very useful and in parts of the world where getting clean water is an issue washing our hair usually requires a lot of water on earth but in

space

we use rinse less shampoo the Heron is right there it's got velcro on it if I wanted to put it down I could stick it to the wall and it's got a piece of Kapton tape on the top so it won't leak Kapton tape is

space

...
approved tape so what I did was add a little bit of water to a wash cloth and then rinse with shampoo and then get a good lather going and then again take a towel and and just dry off my hair with the tile and it worked great because you didn't have to rinse her hair that way you generally used your own washcloth and towel that was somewhat of a personal item yeah shaving the way I shave on earth I use shaving cream and a and a razor on the sink and that requires running water you can do that in

space

and they do have a special shaving cream you can use they call it astro edge and you can also use a razor but then you've got to do something with the cream and the whiskers that are coming off what I opted for was an electric razor and the whiskers were contained in the unit itself and then you would clean it if you needed to very carefully with a vacuum we generally get a haircut pretty close at a time that we're gonna fly in

space

on the

space

station you're up there for six months and so you need to be concerned about a haircut and so for that to have an electric Clipper again that's attached directly to a vac so that as you create hair it'll get sucked right into the vacuum stuff like dead skin cutting your fingernails or toenails you want to do that stuff near the vent so that it gets captured by the vent and then you can clean it off this was a toothbrush that I took with me to

space

NASA could provide you with the standard government-issue...
toothbrush but if you provided one of your own they would pack it for you and fly it and you could use that in

space

if he had a favorite toothbrush so I saw this as an opportunity to do something fun so I went out and purchased this

astronaut

toothbrush to have in

space

and NASA then converted it to a

space

toothbrush by putting a piece of velcro on it in

space

you brush your teeth the same way more or less you used toothbrush and toothpaste and then you rinse your mouth but then the question is what do you do with that stuff and there are two options you can either be a spitter or a swallower if you're a spitter I felt that was a little more complicated because you have to you know spin into a washcloth and deal with it so what I do is I just swallow the toothpaste

space

sounds glamorous doesn't it I wear contact lenses and even

space

walk with my contact lenses some guys didn't want to do that but I always warm I figured you know as long as I wasn't messing with my eyes I'd be ok there was a concern though with the docks about us having clean hands when we put the contacts in and so he had wipes and I guess you can use on earth as well if you were concerned I did not lose a contact in

space

I felt very fortunate that the nab to do laundry on earth is fairly straightforward then we have machines that help us but in

space

it's

different

because we don't have a lot of water in

space

it is hard to wash clothes on the

space

shuttle we had a

different

...
shirt everyday and we had a

different

pair of underwear every day and we had pants and shorts that would be worn for a few days and so we didn't do laundry we just packed that stuff up once we wore the shirt and we put it in a kind of a clothing bin but it was like a big bag and then that stuff would be returned to Earth and and cleaned and returned to us clean on the

space

station they kind of rely on the supply ships to bring them the new clothes the dirty laundry will get packaged put into a supply ship and has been emptied of supplies and now becomes a dumpster and that stuff will burn up under the entry it does however on occasion get stinky in

space

what you smell in

space

in the cabin is generally each other when we landed on the shuttle after this situation for a few weeks the people that would open up the hatch would get a whiff of this and be like was usually the reaction the more experienced recovery technicians would know that ahead of time and be prepared for you go to your

space

suit to

space

walk that becomes your individual

space

craft it does not come with its own toilet the rule was on

space

walking days the two people going out to

space

walk have first dibs on the toilet you want it take care of that as best you can before you go out and then you put your diaper on to make it

astronaut

proof some nice person who packs our stuff writes front on the diapers so we don't put it on backwards and then we put our fancy cooling garment on and then we start...
getting dressed with the rest of the

space

you know once you're locked inside of there you have no access to the toilet any longer so if you're gonna go you're gonna do it in the in the diaper and you're really discouraged from pooping in that thing because you really don't want that stuff getting loose in there and the diapers should work but why take the risk when we were launching on the

space

shuttle we were going to be putting a diaper on as well and when we got dressed so you'd want to use the bathroom at crew quarters and then you put on your

space

suit with a diaper and you go out to the launch pad now on the launch pad itself there is a toilet we call it the last toilet on earth because you use it and then you go to

space

the last thing you do before you go flying or go into a simulator where you're gonna be stuck is you go to the bathroom it's part of the checklist we do have a thermal control so you try to keep yourself cool while you're

space

walking so you don't sweat profusely but still you're gonna be moving around and you're gonna be sweating a bit one thing you learn in aviation as you go to

different

altitudes things are going to expand meaning your stomach I remember the the who was a Navy guy that was training us in this and he said your social graces go out the window when you're in get inside of the airplane you know you might have some extra gas so he said you don't worry about that you because you...
don't want to get a stomachache and so the same thing is in your

space

suit but if you break wind inside of your

space

suit you're the only guy that's going to be smelling it and you won't smell it I think for the future

hygiene

of course is gonna be important on the spatial it was a short-term issue you know you could contain all the poop for a couple weeks on the

space

station now they have a better plan because you're up there longer periods of time but still the proximity to the earth gives you some advantages you can get resupplied of clothing you can get resupplied of water you can get resupplied of a lot of the things you need because we're in low Earth orbit once we start moving further away from the planet it's going to be harder to do that and resupply it's not going to be as easy as it is now so I think we are going to need a way to wash clothes when we go further away from our planet and we're going to need a way to do that that doesn't require a lot of water also we're able to contain a lot of the the germs of bacteria we try to go to

space

very healthy you have a quarantine period ahead of time so you don't have that we have just about every medicine imaginable available to us

hygiene

wise but eventually as we get further and further away that may be more of an issue as well of containing some of the contaminants bacteria if you're very far away from Earth you're going to have to solve that problem on your...
own so I think dealing with germs cleanliness and resupply are gonna be a bigger issue as we go forward where you're gonna need to take all your toothpaste with you or figure out a way to make it or something so we've got to think about these issues as you move forward you