Tide is working with NASA to make the first laundry detergent for astronauts in space

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  • Tide and NASA are collaborating on the first laundry detergent designed for astronauts in space.

  • Challenges like cargo capacity mean astronauts must rewear clothing many times before replacing it.

  • The ingredients will be tested under microgravity conditions and space-level radiation exposure.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Tide and NASA are working together to create the first laundry detergent designed for space ahead of high-profile spaceflights like the Artemis Moon missions.

Under the parties' Space Act Agreement, NASA will put Tide's cleaning solutions to the test in space next year, according to a press release issued Tuesday.

"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," said Dr. Michael Roberts, acting chief scientist for the International Space Station's U.S. National Laboratory, in the release.

Currently, clothing is sent to the International Space Station in resupply shipments. Cargo limits, however, make it difficult to ensure astronauts have enough clean clothing to last on missions to deep space. Round-trip missions to Mars, for example, can take two or three years.

Water presents another challenge. There is limited water available per load, and cleaning ingredients must be safe so the wash water can still be turned into drinkable water since astronauts are dealing with a closed-loop water system in space.

Because of these challenges, astronauts on the International Space Station often have to wear clothing several times before changing, which means their clothing may be smelly or dirty for a while. Every year, 160 pounds of clothing per crew member are sent to the International Space Station, according to the release.

A new laundry solution could free up cargo space and reduce waste from having to dispose of dirty clothing rather than washing and reusing it.

Tide says its space detergent is fully degradable, so it can tackle odors and stains while still being safe for a closed-loop water system. During a cargo launch to the ISS next year, teams from Tide owner Procter & Gamble will test how well the cleaning ingredients hold up under both microgravity conditions and exposure to radiation levels in space. Tide's stain-removing wipes and pens will also be put to the test on the ISS.

Tide and NASA say they may also look into whether a washer-dryer unit using the detergent could work for Artemis Moon and Mars missions in low-gravity surface conditions.

Tide will also "strive to bring off-planet learnings back to everyday consumer products" since the findings may have helpful implications for environmental challenges on Earth.

"Humanity has reached a pivotal point where on one hand, we're on the exciting cusp of space colonization, and on the other, facing a critical period where action must be taken now to save the planet we all call home," said Aga Orlik, senior vice president of P&G North America Fabric Care, in the press release. "The collaboration with NASA and the ISS National Lab are particularly exciting because it allows us to push the bounds of resource efficiency to its absolute limit, uncovering learnings with practical applications for both the future of laundry in space and here on Earth."

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