Cleaning clothes in outer space

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Len Rome's Daily Feature of Little Known Facts

(WYTV) – How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t, But an Ohio company is coming to the rescue.

Astronauts wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the stink anymore. Space station astronauts exercise two hours every day – that’s a lot of sweat.

They stuff their really dirty clothes in an unmanned and discarded cargo ship. The ship burns up in the atmosphere.

NASA has teamed up with Procter & Gamble of Cincinnati to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years.

An astronaut needs 150 pounds of clothes in space per year, and a Mars mission can be three to four years long.

Special antimicrobial clothes will work for a while, but it’s not a long-term solution. So to start, Proctor and Gamble will send up detergent custom-made for space in December so scientists can see how the enzymes and other ingredients react in weightlessness. Then next May, stain-removal pens and wipes go up so the astronauts can test them.

At the same time, P&G is developing a washer-dryer combination to operate in space or on the moon and Mars using minimal amounts of water and detergent.

The laundry water would need to be reclaimed for drinking and cooking.

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