Archived by Raymond J. Noonan, Ph.D., Health and Physical Education Department, Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York (FIT-SUNY), and SexQuest/The Sex Institute, NYC, for the benefit of students and other researchers interested in the human aspects of the space life sciences. Return to first page for background information on these pages.
Personal HygieneShowers would not work too well aboard the Space Shuttle because the water would escape and float around in the air. Therefore, crew members take ten-minute sponge baths. For privacy, they draw a curtain from the bathroom door to the side of the galley. The bathroom has a recessed washbasin with warm water, a soap dispenser, a mirror, and a light. On the wall are clips to attach towels, washcloths, and other personal items. One cloth is used for washing, another for rinsing. Water and soapsuds stick to the skin in weightlessness, so little water is needed to wash. At the back of the basin, a fan pulls excess water into a drain.
The bathroom has a toilet, a light for reading, and even a window to look down at Earth. Weightlessness affects the use of the toilet. Crew members must use foot restraints, a seat belt, and handholds to remain seated. The toilet uses a fan to draw solid wastes to a compartment where they are dried and disinfected. This toilet can be used up to four times in an hour.
The Shuttle toilet is a result of many years of investigation, experimentation, and refinement. Early spacecraft (Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo) used diapers and disposable bags for astronaut elimination. Astronauts in space suits use diapers, even today. The Skylab toilet was tested in the KC-135 Zero Gravity Trainer. From "Living and Working in Space," NASA SP-4208:"[The toilet's] principal problem arose out of the difficulty of conclusive testing in zero g. The zero-g condition could be maintained for only about 30 seconds in the KC-135... Urination could be... simulated by mechanical devices... but defecation could not be... Test subjects who could perform on cue were needed. The Huntsville program office was able to find a few people with this talent, and in November, 1969, two days of aircraft testing produced nine good 'data points'..."
Waste ManagementKeeping clean and disposing of garbage is important aboard the Shuttle. Space studies show that microbes can multiply rapidly in a small weightless area such as a spacecraft cabin. Rapid germ growth could endanger the health of everyone on board. To avoid this problem, the food preparation, dining, toilet, and sleeping areas are cleaned regularly. Clothing that has been worn is sealed in airtight plastic bags and stored in lockers beneath the mid-deck living area. After meals, crew members put empty food containers into trash bags, which are then sealed and stored in lockers. Reusable eating utensils and trays are cleaned with germicidal wet wipes.
You can go back to where you came from, back to the frequently asked questions, or jump back to the beginning.
For another view of astronaut hygiene, take a look at the section on personal hygiene provisions in the Space Shuttle News Reference at KSC.
Last modified: Feb 9, 1995
Author: Ken Jenks
Raymond J. Noonan, Ph.D.
Health and Physical Education Department
Fashion Institute of Technology of the
State University of New York (FIT-SUNY);
SexQuest/The Sex Institute, NYC
P.O. Box 20166, New York, NY 10014
R. J. Noonan. (1998). A Philosophical Inquiry into the Role of Sexology in
Space Life Sciences Research and Human Factors
Considerations for Extended Spaceflight.
Dr. Ray Noonan’s Dissertation Information Pages:
[Abstract] [Table of Contents] [Preface] [AsMA 2000 Presentation Abstract]