A "hobo" clown at heart, down on my luck (previously but not now), but eternally optimistic :o)
Dec 19, 2011
Astronauts and cosmonauts are generally chosen based on a balanced blend of desirable traits: mental acuity and psychological stability (it’s isolated up there), physical fitness, physiological durability, willingness to be strapped to a massive controlled explosion and hurled into an environment that is extremely hostile toward life, etc. But it’s no secret: Right Stuff or no Right Stuff, astronauts stink. There’s simply no good way to stay clean in space.
After well more than a decade in orbit, NASA is finally trying to change that. The agency has commissioned Oregon-based UMPQUA to build a prototype low-power, low-water washing machine that would allow ISS residents to do their laundry. This would probably beat the usual protocol, which mandates that astronauts wear the same undergarments until they can’t stand it and then pack them into a used Progress capsule to be incinerated in the atmosphere (though that’s probably a legitimate fate for underwear that’s been worn to the olfactory breaking point).
But in zero gravity, liquid water is still problematic (especially with all the sensitive electronic equipment and instruments aboard the ISS). The machine proposed by UMPQUA Resarch would use a mix of vapor, air, and microwave rays to clean clothing. The company says achieves a greater softness than previously-tried low-water vacuum pressing systems, and that it could also be useful closer to home at isolated locales or aboard maritime vessels.