Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

Space Travel Details

…that everyone wants to know: How do you take a shower in space? How do you brush your teeth? How do you wash your hair?

Well my friends, I must admit keeping good hygiene in space is not easy! There is no shower or faucet with running water. Water does not “flow” here, it “floats” 😉 — which makes it a challenging act to clean yourself. So what do people do up here, specially the ones staying for six months at a time…? They improvise!

There are wet towels, wet wipes and dry towels that are used for cleaning yourself. Usually each person gets a wet towel a day and couple of dry ones. Each person has a personal hygiene kit where they keep their stuff like toothbrush, shaving kit, creams , etc. I got Dice-K’s kit so it had a razor and lots of shaving cream, but no makeup 😉

Now brushing your teeth in space is another joy. You cannot rinse your mouth and spit after brushing, so you end up rinsing and swallowing. Astronauts call it the fresh mint effect 🙂

The most interesting experience — or I should call it experiment — is washing your hair. Now I know why people keep their hair short in space. You basically take a water bag and slowly make a huge water bubble over your head and then Very Very Gently, using a dry shampoo, you wash your hair. At the slightest sudden movement, little water bubbles start floating everywhere. I’ve made some video of my hair-washing experience that I will share when I return 🙂

Of course water here is a valuable resource, and is recycled so anything wet is not thrown out, instead it is left out to air dry. There is a water conduction collection unit that takes the moisture out of the air and recycles and purifies it. This includes your sweaty clothes after exercising. One of the cosmonauts once told me, “We are all very close to each other, we are like brothers and sisters, it is very unique because we drink each others’ sweat.” Now I know well what he means…

There is exercise equipment here, a treadmill and a bike with the best view of the world in the Russian segment, and some resistance training equipment and another bike in the American segment.

Astronauts and cosmonauts train every day, sometimes twice a day, to make sure they reduce the effects of weightlessness on their muscles and bones. Just in case you didn’t know, when people are in weightlessness for an extended period of time, their muscles start weakening and shrinking because they are not used as much. There is no gravity to work against, so everything is effortless. You also start losing calcium in your bones so you have a bone density loss.

They always say you cannot have your cake and eat it too… So I guess all the beauty and excitement of space comes with a price. Of course I’m sure one of you guys out there will become a biologist or a doctor who will figure out how to counteract all these effects so we can travel long distances to Mars and other solar system planets and moons and continue our quest beyond our solar system…

Space Cadet,