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  Space laundry?

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Author Topic:   Space laundry?

Posts: 3593
From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 08-28-2007 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was just thinking about the longterm missions that will be required for a Mars journey and was wondering what crews will do about their own clothing. For a trip that takes well over a year, is it safe to assume they won't be able to bring enough changes in clothing to be hygienic? Granted, I know crews on past missions have allowed their clothing to get a little, uh, ripe. But it would seem that even doing such on a Mars mission would still require a tremendous amount of clothing to make the journey if there were no provisions for cleaning one's own clothing.

So the question I have is whether such a mission will require a space laundry. Has anyone heard of such a thing in the works? And if so, I have to wonder how it would operate.

Jay Chladek

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 08-28-2007 11:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even the current ISS allows for a bit of laundry as some astronauts on the ISS take great cares to ensure their favorite clothing doesn't get too soiled. Ken Bowersox was one example as he had a shirt he scrounged from shuttle and he liked wearing it in the ISS since it was more comfortable then the Russian shirts. Just use a little soap and some water, scrub and then let sit to dry. They typically air dry the stuff on clothes lines in the station as the low humidity inside helps to dry the clothing in no time (and the moisture gets recycled in the process). Towels also get laundered as well to my knowledge.

A Mars mission will indeed need some sort of washing machine and it should be doable with water recycling. This will be a big key for the return from Mars as we don't know how pervasive the Martian dust will be. The plan will probably be to make sure the clothing coming back from Mars gets washed so as to prevent it from breaking lose and possibly contaminating internal filters in the spacecraft (or worse).

The martian EVA suits can be kept in the airlock, but even then there might be concerns of leaving the stuff to collect on surfaces as its chemical makeup might be a concern for oxidation problems on metals in an oxygen rich environment. Since the trip back would be at least six months, steps would need to be taken to ensure that critical hardware works, and keeping the spacecraft interior clean and free of martian dust can potentially go a long way to helping to ensure that happens. And as I'm certain they probably say in the Navy, a clean ship is a happy ship.

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