Before humans can colonize Mars, a sustainable way to do laundry in space has to be found. Tide this week made a deal with NASA to develop new detergent solutions that will work outside the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the P&G laundry brand, the study could even have potential on-planet implications, like environmental challenges and solutions for Earth’s resources.
Currently, astronauts in ISS don’t clean their clothes. Crew members wear clothes many times before replacing them, delivered through resupply shipments. According to Tide, limited cargo capacity will make replenishing clothing a challenge for future deep space exploration. “Without a laundry solution, 160 pounds of clothing per crew member per year are launched to [the] ISS,” a company press release said. Human roundtrip missions to Mars could be two to three years in length,” suggesting thousands of pounds of clothes throughout one trip.
It is easy to take washing clothes for granted when two feet are on the ground firmly. In space compatibility with NASA life support systems, careful planning around ingredient safety and the limited water supply must be considered. Now Tide has a solution. A fully degradable detergent is developed by Tide, specially made for use in space to solve stain removal, cleanliness, solve malodor problems for washable items used during deep space missions. It has to be suitable for use in a closed-loop water system.
In partnership with the ISS, US National Laboratory and SEOPS will 1st test the stability of cleaning ingredients under microgravity conditions and exposure to radiation levels experienced in space. Through experiments with Tide To Go wipes and pens, removal ingredients and performance will eventually be tested onboard the ISS.
According to Michael Roberts, acting chief scientist for the ISS National Lab, “Through private-sector utilization of the space station, companies like P&G can conduct investigations in ways not possible on Earth to develop new consumer products, enhance existing products, and better understand processes that further business models both on the ground and in low-Earth orbit.”
Additional research will be carried out on how a combined dying and washing unit, utilizing specially formulated detergent, could be integrated into planetary habitats on Mars or Moon.