CAPE CANAVERAL: How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t. They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.
NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.
The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes.
It’s no small problem, especially as the U.S. and other countries look to establish bases on the moon and Mars.
Rocket cargo space is tight and expensive, according to NASA, so why waste it on new outfits if their clothes could be kept looking and smelling fresh? When you figure an astronaut needs 150 pounds (68 kilograms) of clothes in space per year, that quickly adds up, especially on a three-year Mars mission, said Mark Sivik, a chemist specializing in fabric and home care technology for P&G.