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Six Months Without a Shower or Bath? No Problem, Astronaut Tells Youngsters

from The ARRL Letter, Vol 23, No 37 on September 18, 2004
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Six Months Without a Shower or Bath? No Problem, Astronaut Tells Youngsters:

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, KE5AIT, told students at Kingston Community School in South Australia that keeping oneself clean in space is not that much of a problem, despite the lack of a shower or bathtub. During a September 10 Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school group contact, Fincke suggested that no one will run the other way when he and ISS Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka, RN3DT, return to Earth--even though neither will have had a real bath or shower during their six-month stay. The ISS crew washes up instead using wet towels and special shampoo, Fincke explained.

"We have some special space shampoo that doesn't require water, and it does a pretty good job," Fincke said. "So at the end of the mission, even though it's six months without a bath, we're still pretty good, and we don't smell too bad." Fincke said keeping clean is important, but the crew doesn't really get that dirty to start with. He also said he keeps his hair very short to make it easy to shampoo.

As for space food--it's "pretty good," he said, responding to another favorite question. But the astronauts can't just pop into the kitchen when they feel hungry and grab a cold drink from the fridge or whip up something on the stove. "Now, we don't have a refrigerator, and we don't have any kind of oven or a microwave, but we can warm up our food," he explained. Meals--there's both American and Russian cuisine aboard--come dehydrated, and the astronauts just add water and wait a few minutes for a food warmer to do its job. Fincke said he and Padalka also take advantage of mealtime to discuss their activities.

"We certainly enjoy three meals a day, and that's the time when the commander and I, we have a chance to talk about our day and go over our plans," Fincke said, "so mealtime is one of my favorite times."

One topic they've likely been discussing the past few days has been recurring problems with the space station's primary oxygen-generation system. Russian engineers on the ground spent last weekend analyzing the intermittent problem. NASA says the crew is in no danger, however. The Elektron oxygen system initially shut down September 8. It works by separating water into oxygen for ISS use and hydrogen, which is vented overboard.

International Space Station Amateur Radio Club NN1SS in Greenbelt, Maryland, served as the Earth station for the contact with NA1SS in space. A two-way teleconference link, donated by MCI, made it possible for the students to ask questions and hear Fincke's replies. Dave Taylor, W8AAS, served as the control operator at NN1SS. ARISS International Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, and Mark Steiner, K3MS, assisted. ARISS veteran Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, worked with Kingston Community School to make arrangements for the contact.

ARISS is an international educational outreach with US participation from ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.


The ARRL Letter Vol. 23, No. 37 September 17, 2004

Member Comments:
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Six Months Without a Shower or Bath? No Problem, A  
by AC3P on September 22, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Boy that's strange. Back in the 1970's the SKYLAB space station had a shower and I believe that spacecraft was smaller than the ISS.
RE: Six Months Without a Shower or Bath? No Proble  
by N9XK on September 22, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I seem to remember a shower on the ISS tour at KSC. They have a replica of the iss that you can walk through. The replica has a shower that you close yourself into and use a hose that supplies a small trickle of water and then a squeegee with a vacuum hose to dry the water off yourself and the walls of the small shower cubicle. Maybe the module with that shower hasn't gone up yet.

Honestly, at first glance of the title I thought it was a story about guys at hamfests.

RE: Six Months Without a Shower or Bath? No Proble  
by KT8K on September 23, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, Mark. I came here to make that comment, but was glad you beat me to it. (Fortunately, I hardly ever run into the 6-months-without-a-shower syndrome at hamfests.)
73 & C U at the next hamfest de kt8k - Tim
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