Given how many years humans have spent in space, it may be surprising to learn that NASA still lacks a laundry detergent solution for its astronauts. Presently, individuals living on the International Space Station must wear the same clothes multiple times in a row before breaking out a new set of clothes, which are delivered as part of cargo shipments.
Humanity is gearing up for a big return to manned space missions, ones that will involve both government and private individuals, some of whom may one day go as far as Mars. These anticipated long-term space trips will require new solutions for cleaning clothes as it isn’t practical to send a huge batch of new clothing items to far-away destinations.
Despite the need for laundry detergent solutions, washing clothes in space is trickier than it sounds. In addition to being compatible with NASA’s life support systems, the product must be able to clean clothes with minimal water and any water used must be suitable for purification back into drinking water.
According to Tide, it has entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA that will result in key developments related to laundry in space. Tide has developed a new type of detergent intended for use in closed-loop water systems in space, particularly during deep space missions. The detergent is described as fully degradable with the ability to address issues of cleanliness, odor, and stains.
The detergent will be sent to the ISS as part of a cargo trip in 2022, giving astronauts on the space station the opportunity to test the product in a number of experiments. The data will contribute to new innovations involving laundry in microgravity and other environments both on the ISS and in other possible future missions involving the Moon and Mars.