How to keep your underwear clean in space

The old joke about switching underwear in the armed forces (“Müller swaps with Maier, Huber swaps …”) is true for astronauts on the International Space Station. There they have to share some clothes – without a washing machine. In a project funded by the European Space Agency, Austrian researchers are now looking at how microbes can help keep underwear clean in space.

The basics are in brief

  • There is no traditional shower or washing machine on the ISS.

Astronauts wash themselves with wet wipes and special shampoo; Clothes last longer than they wear Land Worn and used laundry that has been discarded. Astronauts have to share more complex items of clothing such as spacesuits and associated equipment without washing them in between. This also includes the so-called “liquid cooling and ventilation clothing” (LCVG).

According to the European Space Agency ESA, the LCVG is worn under a spacesuit directly on the skin while walking in space. It contains gas cooling and ventilation hoses to keep the astronauts at a comfortable temperature during the heavy physical work in space and should be shared with colleagues. “Underwear sharing” is likely to increase with longer missions, such as a space station in lunar orbit.

Currently, antimicrobial materials such as silver or copper are widely used. Reduces the reproduction of microorganisms in clothes that can be worn for a longer time. “The problem is that long-term use can cause skin irritation,” explains Seda Ozdemir Fritz of the Austrian Space Forum (ÖWF). This is why it applied for a new idea as part of the European Space Agency’s Open Space Innovation Platform and recently won a bid for a two-year research project.

Together with the start-up Vienna Textile Lab, ÖWF wants to try the “Advanced Biocide Painting Technology to Reduce Microbial Activity” (BACTeRMA) project to use microorganisms to keep clothes clean and fresh for longer. Metabolic products with antimicrobial, viral and antifungal properties bacteria Make the textile fibers more resistant to unwanted small things.

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International Space Station bacteria kidding on the International Space Station


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