MANILA, Philippines — Have you ever wondered how astronauts wash their clothes in space?
They don't. Astronaut Frank De Winne explained why in a 2009 video uploaded on the YouTube channel of European Space Agency.
"You wanted to know how we wash our clothes in space. Well actually, we don't. We don't have a washing machine here and also it would use up a lot of water and water is very scarce in space. We also recycle our water and we only use it to drink or to wash," De Winne explained.
He added that they only bring a "stack of clothes" that they use an "awful lot."
In their case, they change clothes once a month while their socks are changed every week. When these get dirty, these are either "thrashed" or "go back in a progress or the ATV, the European cargo vehicle" that visits the International Space Station (ISS).
But all these are about to change.
Laundry detergent brand Tide recently signed a Space Act Agreement with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help in the development of laundry detergent solutions and technology development in space.
Under the agreement, NASA may test and study Tide cleaning solutions in space.
Without a laundry solution, 160 pounds of clothing per crew member per year are launched to the ISS. Human roundtrip missions to Mars, for example, could be two to three years in length.
These challenges inspired the laundry detergent brand to develop a fully degradable detergent, specifically designed for use in space to solve malodor, cleanliness and stain removal problems for washable items used during deep space missions, while being suitable for use in a close-loop water system.
Onboard a 2022 cargo launch to the space station, “Mission PGTide” (P&G Telescience Investigation of Detergent Experiments), teams will test the stability of cleaning ingredients under microgravity conditions and exposure to the radiation levels experienced in space in partnership with the ISS U.S. National Laboratory and SEOPS. In addition, the stain removal ingredients and performance will be tested onboard the ISS through experiments with Tide To Go Wipes and To Go Pens.
"The ISS National Lab is excited to work with the P&G team once again as they push the limits of their research and development onboard the orbiting laboratory,” said Dr. Michael Roberts, Acting Chief Scientist for the ISS National Lab. “Through private-sector utilization of the space station, companies like P&G can conduct investigations in ways not possible on Earth to develop new consumer products, enhance existing products, and better understand processes that further business models both on the ground and in low Earth orbit. We look forward to this first investigation of Tide in Space and hope that many more will soon follow."
In addition to testing onboard the ISS National Lab, NASA and Tide researchers may study how an innovative combined washing and drying unit utilizing the special-formulated detergent could potentially be integrated into planetary habitats that may be used for the Artemis Moon and Mars missions under low-gravity surface conditions.
The news of Tide’s space exploration to innovate low-impact laundry solutions comes on the heels of the brand's Ambition 2030 commitments, announced earlier this spring.