Space Questions


I remember reading a very nice program posted in January 2013, which was put together by our past President, Dick. It featured a video clip in which the astronaut Sunita provided us with a delightful walkthrough of the space station. I really found it fascinating and if you're looking for a make-up meeting, I would highly recommend it.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed the space station walkthrough and learning about some of the things happening there, and most of all how some mundane things are done in going to the restroom or sleeping. Still, I had quite a few more questions and I would like to share some of those with you and their answers.


Personal hygene in space

While I was watching Sunita present the restroom equipment, I immediately thought about personal hygiene and how that is done in space. In particular, how does an astronaut wash his/her hair? My thoughts were that it would be quite difficult to wash your hair, especially for those of the feminine gender who tend to grow it long. What do you think? I would definitely cut my hair short if I was to go into space.

Well, if you're as curious as I was to find out, here's how astronauts wash their hair on the space station:

Inside the ISS - Hair Raising Hygiene!: 2:58 min

I found it fascinating that they recycle the water, but a bit more about that later. One thing that wasn't mentioned in the video is that while wiping their hair clean with the towel, astronauts must not let loose hairs fall off the towel because floating hairs can create a safety hazard since they can be easily inhaled or go into someone's eyes. If you have hair in your drain after a shower, then you can imagine that loose hair in space can also clog filters and affect air circulation and filtration which would be a big issue.


How about washing your hands? Well, I think that would be a bit easier. I actually thought they would use some wet towels, wet wipes, but actually it's a similar process to the one above.

How to wash your hands in space: 1:46 min


What about your teeth and showering? I have to tell you, I'm glad we have plenty of gravity while we're doing those.

How to wash brush your teeth in space: 3:12 min

Apparently in 1973, Soviet Yuri Romanenko developed a toothache on the 96-day Salyut 6 flight. Ouch! The cosmonaut spent two weeks in pain before the crew returned to Earth. Since then, tools for dental care have been added to the crew's emergency medical kit. They all also visit the dentist before they are sent on a mission.


Shaving is done in a similar way as on Earth, with an electric razor, but again astronauts have to be careful not to let stray whiskers escape into the air. For long term stays a hair trim might be required, and here's how that's done:

Chris Hadfield's ISS: International Space Salon! (A haircut in space) : 1:12 min


Eating in space

The other thing I was curious about was eating and not just how the astronauts eat, but what they eat as well. Like the personal hygiene activities in space, I found that eating requires some special considerations as well. According to the Canadian Space Agency, "several practical solutions exist to overcome the challenges of eating in weightlessness. Astronauts consume mostly wet and sticky foods such as oatmeal, scrambled eggs, puddings and stews because they stick to an eating utensil long enough for the astronaut to put into their mouth. Foods like bread are rejected because they produce crumbs that can float around; tortillas, on the other hand, are perfect for eating in freefall. Salt and pepper are also consumed, but the salt must be dissolved into water and the pepper suspended in oil."

Space bound foods come in one of these forms:

  1. Fresh (must be eaten within the first few days in space) e.g. apples, oranges
  2. Intermediate Moisture e.g. dried apricots, dried beef
  3. Irradiated e.g. beefsteak
  4. Natural Form e.g. tortillas, cashews
  5. Rehydratable e.g. oatmeal with raisins, teriyaki vegetables
  6. Thermostabilized e.g. tuna salad spread, split pea soup

All drinks, which include things like coffee, tea, and lemonade, are rehydratable.

Making a Peanut Butter Sandwich in Outer Space: 2:27 min

An 8 day menu, consisting of the items listed above, has been developed to ensure that astronauts have a balanced diet and consists of three meals and one snack daily. Good nutrition plays an important role in lessening the negative effects that microgravity has on the body, such as bone and muscle loss. As Sunita showed in her walkthrough, International Space Station crewmembers can fill bonus food containers with some of their favorite foods, as long as the foods are suitable for space.

Spinach might not be a favorite food for a lot of people, but here is how they cook it in space.

How to Cook Spinach In Space: 1:21 min


Back to the water recycling, here's a quick video about that.

Astronauts drink waste water: 1:54 min


I wonder if their water filtration system is something which will become cost effective so it could be used in the poor parts of the world where water sanitization is a problem.

I hope you've enjoyed this addition to Sunita's space station walkthrough. Are you curious about anything else?  

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