How Chinese astronauts maintain personal hygiene in space

Xinhua
The astronauts have the same personal hygiene needs as people on Earth, but see to them in different ways due to their microgravity environment.
Xinhua

Three Chinese astronauts have been living and working in China's space station core module Tianhe for more than a month.

The astronauts have the same personal hygiene needs as people on Earth, but see to them in different ways due to their microgravity environment.

A video released on June 23 shows how the astronauts start their day. Tang Hongbo uses face wipes to clean himself, squeezes toothpaste directly into his mouth, and swallows it after brushing his teeth.

Huang Weifen, the chief designer of China's manned space program astronaut system, said that it is impossible for astronauts to shower as they do on Earth. According to Huang, the astronauts heat wet towels to wipe their bodies.

As for washing their hair, they put on shower caps, massage their hair with rinse-free shampoo, and towel dry.

The astronauts underwent comprehensive training to live in space, said Huang, adding that they can shave and cut their hair.

"My barber is right beside me," said Nie Haisheng in an interview before the three astronauts traveled to space, pointing to Tang Hongbo.

Nie said they would cut each other's hair in space and had practiced many times. The hair clippers are attached to something like a vacuum cleaner, which produces negative pressure and can suck in the hair that is cut.

Liu Weibo, the deputy chief designer of the astronaut system, said that the three astronauts don't do laundry in space and use disposable clothing instead.

Chinese scientists have devised a system to recycle water from the urine, breath and sweat produced by astronauts in space, which could save up to 100 million yuan (US$15.5 million) in a period of six months with three astronauts in orbit.

"The most valuable thing in orbit is water," Liu told reporters.

He noted that water, which is contaminated with detergent as well as skin debris and dirt washed from the body, will be challenging to recycle.

Liu said they have calculated and verified that disposable clothing that is regularly changed and discarded costs much less than doing laundry with water.

Liu said the astronauts change their clothes according to their needs. He said that underwear is the most frequently changed item of clothing, that sweatshirts and socks are changed less frequently, and that working uniforms are changed every month.

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