At present, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) wear articles of clothing multiple times before changing to a fresh set. In any given year, an astronaut can expect to go through 160 pounds of clothing on the ISS. On a long-term trip to a distant body, like Mars, laundering clothing becomes an issue.
NASA has partnered with Tide to create and test laundry detergent solutions that would be ideal for deep space missions where limited cargo capacity is a challenge.
To help tackle the conundrum, Tide worked with NASA to develop detergent than is safe to use in space. It must also be compatible with the limited amount of water aboard a ship. What’s more, the wash water must be safe enough to be recycled back into drinking-quality water.
Researchers may also look into the feasibility of a combined washing and drying unit using the specially formulated detergent that “could potentially be integrated into planetary habitats that may be used for the Artemis Moon and Mars missions under low-gravity surface conditions.”
The first samples are expected to arrive at the space station in 2022. Test results could be used to help Proctor & Gamble develop new consumer products for use here on Earth, or enhance existing products. And if space tourism does indeed take off over the next several years, small innovations like these could be key to their success.