Have you ever wondered how astronauts in the International Space Station deal with their laundry when they stay there for months at a time? With no easy way to wash clothes or get them delivered, astronauts spend up to a week wearing the same underwear, and even longer than that for other articles of clothing. In order to make their lives a bit more hygienic, NASA has commissioned a washing machine design that can work in zero gravity.
NASA contracted Oregon-based UMPQUA Research Company to create a prototype of a low-power washing machine that uses a very small amount of water. To be more precise, part of the contract reads: "Flight Hardware for long duration human missions beyond low Earth orbit...The system is suitable for use in any long term space mission where resupply logistics preclude routine delivery of fresh crew clothing and removal of disposable clothing articles. While the proposed laundry system is microgravity compatible, the system will be completely functional in reduced gravity environments."
UMPQUA proposed a machine that uses not only jets of air and vapor but also microwave rays to clean clothes. The company claims its system achieves "greatly enhanced softness" compared to other low-water laundry tech. Once the machine is deemed viable for use, astronauts can stop the current practice of sending their laundry on unmanned capsules to burn on the Earth's atmosphere, and using their soiled underwear to grow plants in. The futuristic washing machine may be designed for outer space, but the company believes it could also be used on ships, military outposts, and Earth-bound research stations.
[Image credit: Wikimedia]
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